Why Proverbs 31 is Insufficient for Christian Women

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.

It seems that Proverbs 31 is often overemphasized among women at the expense of other Scriptures. Let’s be sure to also learn from the rest of the Bible.

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?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Thrive @ Home, Wise Woman, Works for Me Wednesday, Growing Homemakers, Titus 2sday, Living Proverbs 31, Making Your Home Sing & Essential Fridays.

Comments

  1. It is so important that we learn the whole Bible to abide by. As you said, it is all relevant. This is something I struggle with — being consistent in my study time. I do much better with a book study which refers me to the Bible then just sitting down with the Bible, which I really need to do more. Right now I’m reading Living So That. It is great and leads me to the Word daily. Thank you for this beautiful lesson.

    • Shannon says:

      It’s certainly easier to read some parts of the Bible than others, isn’t it?
      Thanks for the book suggestion!

  2. Good Morning, Yes it is all true what you said in your post! And if we really want to be all He intended us to be, we must read the Bible as a whole and allow those portions He is using to teach us at all the different phases in our lives. Please come back to my blog to reply as until I get to know you it is hard to track back on these Link Ups…
    I also have a Link party on Wednesdays on my blog it! I would welcome your insight and wisdom!
    Happy Mother’s Day!
    Pary all week long :o)
    Blessings, Roxy

  3. Hi Shannon,

    As a woman I’ve struggled often with the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t really feel like I fit the mold and I’m not sure that I ever will, but as a God-fearing woman I know that the whole Bible is intended for me and God’s plan for my life. I just can’t believe that He wants us in such a restrictive box of what a woman must be. I look forward to asking someday:) Thanks so much for this post!

    • Shannon says:

      I definitely think there are important principles found in Proverbs 31, but, yes, the whole Bible is intended fur us!

  4. Thank you for saying this! I was startled last fall when I realized that I’d heard the theme of an upcoming women’s ministry focus (“Being the Proverbs 31 woman!”) and felt my heart sink. I NEVER want to feel that way about scripture, but at this season in my life, it would take a lot for a speaker to hit upon something fresh in that beautiful chapter. 🙁 Why not pull from the ENTIRE Bible? Why not dig into other, lesser known truths?

    • Shannon says:

      Great point, Heather! There are so many important portions of Scripture that are almost never addressed. We need to dig into these, too.

  5. I wrote a post recently about proverbs 31 http://disciplewalk.blogspot.com/2014/03/for-who-can-find-virtous-woman-proverbs.html
    In this post I talk about what proverbs 31 is. It is not an all consuming list of things that we need to be as Christian women. Here are some of the highlights of this post and some things that might be useful here.

    I would say to everyone who has become overwhelmed with the responsibility of becoming a proverbs 31 woman and especially to those who have come to resent this scripture passage and have a huge ball of negative energy towards it and are tired of trying to keep up with others. My message today is to LET THAT NEGATIVE ENERGY GO. LET GO OF THAT INNER VOICE ALL THE THOUGHTS OF I AM NOT GOOD OR SMART ENOUGH. BREAK FREE FROM THE COMPARISON TRAP WE HAVE GOTTEN INTO. BLOW OUT THE NEUROPATHWAYS THAT TELL YOUR BRAIN I CAN’T BE THAT WOMAN WHY BOTHER TRYING . I WOULD SAY TO YOU, CREATE SOME NEW THOUGHTS ON WHAT IT IS TO BE A GODLY WOMAN.

    THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN IS ONE WHO LOVES AND SERVES THE LORD. SHE USES THE UNIQUE TALENTS AND GIFTS THAT HE HAS GIVEN HER TO BLESS THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND HER.

    That is really the essence of proverbs 31. We have all been given talents use them to bless others. The rest of the scriptures will give us insights as to what our talents are and how to use them to build his kingdom.

    I agree that there is so much to be learned from the bible as well as other sources. God wants us to know all about him, not just part of him.

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Comparison is a huge issue among women, so I’m glad you mentioned it.
      I think a lot of women do feel overwhelmed when they read Proverbs 31. At this point in my life I don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I just want to make sure we don’t overemphasize one passage at the expense of others. After all, the whole Bible is for women, not just that one passage.

  6. You know, this may be the best post I’ve ever read written on Proverbs 31. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and researched words. Often I feel that Proverbs 31 is insufficient, in that, I feel like the ways in which it has been explained before left so much to be desired…Like there was a message in there that we’re all missing as we try to decipher each part. But putting it together with the rest of Scripture enlightens the soul so much more, and you’ve done that so aptly! I’m going to pin it, to read it again.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for your kind words. I feel as you do: We have to interpret all portions of Scripture in the context of the whole Bible.

  7. “How do you make sure you are learning from all of Scripture?”

    Read it! It probably sounds obvious – but it is AMAZING how many believers have never, ever read the whole Bible. Obviously, there’s more it it than just that – reading and not doing is still fairly useless, and I most certainly don’t claim to have arrived! But it’s an essential first step.

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