I almost get tired just reading about her: The woman described in Proverbs 31.
This passage mentions her being praised in several spots. If God actually held that up as a standard that women should meet before they could be regarded as praiseworthy, we will burn out long before we will ever be half way to being worthy of praise. But I think the essence of this passage is missed by those who preach it as a performance list.
You see, nothing in Proverbs 31 say: “This (fictitious) woman did this and this. Go and do likewise.”
Perhaps, Proverbs talks of 3 different ways women try to be worthy of praise:
After asking …:
A wife of noble character who can find?
… King Lemuel’s mother (the teacher of this lesson) starts to list a lot of things which would indeed make a woman an exceptionally high achiever. This superwoman:
> always does her husband good – even before meeting him (:12);
> works with wool and flax (:13) ;
> provides for her family (:15) and her servants;
> deals in real estate and farms grapes (:16); she trades (:18);
> spins (:19);
> is involved in charity work (:20);
> decorates her home(:22);
> she and her family looks good and wears fine clothing (:21-22);
> runs a clothing factory (:24);
> counsels people with wisdom(:26);
> and even when she goes afar to bring in food (:14) she watches over her household (:27).
The best evidence of how impossible this list is, is here:
:18 … her lamp does not go out at night.
She never sleeps? Nobody can do that!
Such a woman, said king Lemuel’s mother, will be praised by her spouse and children. We ordinary women, who cannot juggle three or more lucrative businesses plus family plus working for charity, often do a thankless task. We who actually need to sleep sometimes may not be praised. But should we be praised? I believe the answer lies somewhat later in the passage.
:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting…
It goes without saying that men will praise you if you are charming and pretty. It is way easier for charming, pretty women to be praised than for high achievers. But that, according to Proverbs, is not important, and not what makes you worthy of praise.
3) Fearing the Lord
God say the woman who fear the Lord should be praised. This is the only command in the passage. Nothing in the passage say: “Woman, see to it that you farm grapes/ do your husband only good every single day/ make bed covers/ always have wise advice to give/ actually have a husband/ work with wool and flax.” The text does not suggest a lamp that never goes out is the way to identify a woman who fears the Lord. Even God rested on the 7th day.
No, the command is (bold added):
:30 … a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
: 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Praise and honor the woman who fears the Lord. The woman who, in God’s mind, should be praised is not the impossibly high achiever or the one naturally blessed with charm and beauty.
Woman, you do not have to perform to be praiseworthy. You don’t need to look in the mirror and think yourself unworthy of praise, because of what you see there. No! If you fear the Lord, this passage say you should be praised. God commands those who know God-fearing women to praise them!