Woman or Wife? Who can find a virtuous woman?

Woman or Wife? Who can find a virtuous woman?

Jun 2, 2015

Woman or Wife? Who can find a virtuous woman?

by Katrina Goodrich

Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

The woman portrayed in Proverbs 31 can be described using numerous adjectives. She is trustworthy, caring, industrious, a leader, intelligent, kind, altruistic, wise, useful, strong, courageous, and loved and respected by her family, etc. She is in possession of many virtues and would be an excellent role model for a young woman to emulate. She seems far from the submissive, browbeaten wallflower that some errantly say the Bible encourages those of the fairer gender to be.

As an excellent example of what it means to be a Christian woman, Proverbs 31 has been the subject of many Bible studies and books. You can get coffee mugs, t-shirts, Bible covers, and all kinds of other merchandise proclaiming that you are a “Proverbs 31 woman.” I’ve seen posts on Facebook and dating websites from Christian men proclaiming that they are actively seeking out a quote on quote “Proverbs 31 woman.” I’ve been on dates where very thinly veiled questions were asked in order to determine whether I was or was not a “Proverbs 31 woman.”

I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting to be like this woman. In fact, I would encourage it. She is a strong, capable person who works for the good of her family and loves God. I also think men seeking out a woman with these qualities with whom to share their life show wisdom. Here is my problem with the whole Proverbs 31 woman movement: most people do not want a Proverbs 31 woman, they want a Proverbs 31 wife.




The distinction between woman and wife is not that huge as it pertains to this passage because the writer is speaking of a married woman, and the words seem to be used almost interchangeably. It is completely natural to view the woman described through the wifely lens and use it to enrich and improve ourselves in the role of a wife. But when we narrow our focus to just “wife,” we lose the complete message.

There are girls who legitimately think that once they have all these qualities described in Proverbs 31, they are ready to be a wife. The Bible study of this chapter often becomes a master’s class for women who are looking for their MRS degree. Once they’ve done the study, they receive their t-shirt or mug and marriage will soon follow — right? Many men believe that if a woman displays these qualities, a willingness to study them, or even just a willingness to claim these virtues, they must be the one. This is not always the case.

Putting an emphasis on the wife role that the Proverbs 31 woman plays shortchanges her and places focus somewhere other than on God. First, a wife is not the only role the author talks about. She is also a business owner and scholar and manages to balance all of this with running her household. Second, and more importantly, focusing on only the wifely aspects of this passage places the focus on becoming the “ideal wife” for your husband rather than on God, where it belongs.

Just as being a good husband is about more than a focus on your wife, being a good wife is about more than a focus on your husband. The woman in this passage doesn’t merely do all these things to be a good wife, she does them because she is a godly woman and seeks to please God. She isn’t trying to prove her worth as a wife but trying to live as a woman of God.

By all means, study Proverbs 31. But don’t do it to learn how to become a Christian wife, do it to learn how to be a Christian woman.

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