I felt some frustration when I first studied the verses in Proverbs 31. Of course, I was a college student at the time. I wasn’t married and the idea of selecting wool and flax (verse 13) or making linen garments (verse 24) seemed completely irrelevant to me.
As I’ve studied and matured over the years, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for this chapter. I’m able to look beyond the literal activities described in it and see the principles that we should apply to our lives.
I do feel, though, that this passage is sometimes overemphasized at the expense of the rest of the Bible. I’ve never heard anyone assert that Proverbs 31 is the only passage that applies to women, but it is a common text used for women’s conferences and women’s Bible studies. Moreover, many young women are taught that the “Proverbs 31 woman” is the epitome of a Christian woman in general and a Christian wife in particular.
As women, let’s learn what we can from Proverbs 31, but let’s also learn from the rest of the Bible.
Learning from the whole Bible
The chapters that precede Proverbs 31 are full of wonderful instruction for women, especially women who are married. Being cranky and quarrelsome creates hostile environments in our homes (Proverbs 25:24, Proverbs 27:15-16). Lack of discretion and immodesty detract from our beauty (Proverbs 11:22). If we are a disgrace, we tear down our husbands’ work (Proverbs 12:4).
There are many things we can learn from specific women featured in Scripture. From Rahab (Joshua 2, 6) we learn that God can use us despite our sin. From Ruth (Ruth 1-4) we learn about being committed to family. From Esther (Esther 1-10) we learn about boldness and trusting God. From Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) we learn the importance of feeding our spirits, not just our stomachs.
The Bible provides clear instruction on how women are to conduct themselves as wives and members of Christian community. We are to be submitted to and respectful of our husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33). We are to mentor younger women (Titus 2:3-5). We are to remain faithful to our husbands and hold marriage in honor (Hebrews 13:4).
The rest of Scripture, even passages that don’t instruct or speak of women, still apply to us! There’s so much to learn. From the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-26) we learn the importance of being trustworthy and faithful in small matters. From the account of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:34-46) we learn that when we serve the “least of these” we are really serving the Lord. From Hebrews 11 we learn the hallmarks of lives lived in faith.
All of the Scripture that surrounds Proverbs 31 is relevant to us. Let’s learn from it so we are thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
How do you make sure you are learning from all of Scripture?