A Valuable Woman
"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies" (Prov 31:10)
It is a difficult time for Christian women. Our society presses ahead in an effort to convince women that the biblical picture of a good woman is outdated and demeaning. Women are assured that without ambition for a secular career and a disdain for family life, they are worthless and sell themselves short. In such a climate, it is essential that we return to the biblical truth and God's definition of a valuable woman.
A valuable woman works for her family. In Proverbs, King Lemuel describes the virtuous wife by the tremendous amount of work she does for her family. "She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household"(Prov 31:15). "She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet"(Prov 31:21). This kind of work will not be trumpeted in the streets or make headline news, yet God says it is part of what a truly valuable woman will do. Paul, an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ, wanted the younger women to be taught "to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed"(Titus 2:5). "Homemakers" here does not necessarily imply a career choice, but rather one who is willing to work at home. Paul also desired that younger widows "marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity for the adversary to speak reproachfully"(1 Tim 5:14). Some would argue that Paul is simply a chauvinist living in the distant past, but Christian women know Paul spoke for God (1 Cor 14:37). Actually, what Paul and Proverbs are teaching is that God wants women to work for their families! There is no shame in such work, and it is never to be denigrated! Certainly God does not exclude women from working-Lydia, for example, held a job (Acts 16:14)-but rather wants women to know that family work is of the utmost importance, and cannot be dismissed.
A valuable woman works with her husband rather than challenging his authority or doing him harm. "The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life"(Prov 31:11-12). Lemuel speaks of the husband being well-respected in the community due to his wife's support and work behind the scenes (v. 23). In God's ideal family, husband and wife are a team working together to overcome problems, strengthen one another, and raise godly children. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord"(Eph 5:22). Husbands are to take the lead, and our world desperately needs more strong, faithful husbands to lead in homes. But also needed are godly, submissive women who will support and work with their husbands to strengthen the home. The modern world scoffs at this role for women, urging them to challenge their husbands for supremacy within the home. Husbands who lead in the Bible pattern are painted as dominating and oppressive. "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand"(Mark 3:25), and when women refuse to work with their husbands, is it any wonder so many homes are broken today? A valuable woman works with and supports her husband-despite his failings-and knows that the peace that comes from submission is far more valuable than always getting her way.
A valuable woman works for the Lord. The godly woman's work is not just for her family, it is also for her God. "She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy"(Prov 31:20). The passage concludes with a grand statement: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised"(Prov 31:30). Simply put, there are many things women can do for the Lord in a better way than men can. Consider Dorcas, who God says was "full of good works and charitable deeds which she did"(Acts 9:36), including "tunics and garments"(v. 39) she had made for many of the widows in Joppa. Though a few men might have the ability to do such work, this kind woman was able to do something that has echoed through eternity because she worked for the Lord. Paul urges Christian women not to adorn themselves in ostentatious clothing, but "which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works"(1 Tim 2:10). These works may be quietly done and overlooked by our world, but God sees them and promises to reward (Matt 6:4). When life is done and we look back over our lives, our focus will not be on how many ladders we climbed or the size of the paychecks we earned, but on whether we worked for the Lord. Valuable women realize the importance of God's work.
Women today are in a difficult position, but God's pattern for a worthwhile woman is still valid and functional. Perhaps women are able to balance the pressures of a career and the work the Bible describes-and if so, I applaud you. But may we never lose sight of the work God has given to women, and never flinch when others ridicule women for listening to God and simply doing their duty. Be a woman who has great worth in the eyes of God!
"Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates" (Prov 31:31).
By Jacob Hudgins
From Expository Files 15.6; June 2008