Proverbs 31…Worthy or Not?

Proverbs 31…Worthy or Not?

Jan 23, 2018

by Katrina Goodrich



She is everywhere, seemingly a part of every Christian conversation about dating and marriage. She is the Christian version of a supermodel: women want to be her and men want to marry her. The “Proverbs 31 woman.”

To be clear there is absolutely nothing amiss with utilizing Proverbs 31 to teach and learn about what being a godly woman means and how it looks. It uses some very practical examples and, putting cultural context aside, we can even apply what it means in the 21st century. That passage is an amazing tool for guidance—but I think we misuse it.

I remember the first time I heard about the “Proverbs 31 woman.” It was from an older boy who mentioned searching for a “Proverbs 31 (P31) woman” because that’s how he’d find a wife. Since then I’ve been indoctrinated into the “P31 Woman Club.” I’ve been in all-women Bible studies that poured over the meaning of this passage and how to be more like this beloved woman. I’ve been getting to know new people and been asked if I would consider myself a “P31” woman—and if I wasn’t, would I be willing to embrace that lifestyle?

Here’s the thing: These incidents are all seemingly innocent things that seem good. A man looking for a godly wife, a Bible study for women looking to become more godly women, people getting to know each other on a spiritual level. However, that’s not the sum total of what is occurring in situations like these nor is it the attitude expressed. We’re using this passage as a way to measure self-worth and what it means to be a woman—an obsession born of an unhealthy chauvinistic culture placing the responsibility of perfection on the wife—i.e. she must be all these things or she is not a woman worthy of a godly man. Ouch!

Wives look at this passage and see a checklist they need to tick off in order to own the perfect godly life. If the list isn’t checked off that must be why your relationship with your husband and/or house isn’t perfect. Single ladies look at this and think if I can only be P31 I’ll finally find “the one.”

Proverbs 31 was never meant to be a checklist for either party of a relationship to tick boxes off to know when a woman is worthy of being a beloved wife—but that’s how we tend to use it. It’s a love poem highlighting the importance of finding a woman who pursues a godly lifestyle. It isn’t another bar of perfection for women to measure up to. Asking a woman if she’s P31 usually isn’t a question dealing with her godliness— but rather, if she is “good enough” to be in my life, to be a wife, to be loved.

This poem was written by a man who was in love with his wife and saw the good that her pursuit of godliness brought him, not by a man searching for the perfect woman. He recognizes her godly attributes, but I doubt he would characterize their relationship as perfection. And that woman he’s talking about, if she’s anything like most women today, wouldn’t recognize herself in this passage because she isn’t checking boxes off a “perfect wife list.” She is a woman in pursuit of a godly life despite imperfections and flaws, and her husband recognizes and celebrates her worth as a woman of God.

So please don’t ask me if I’m P31 as if it’s some sort of seal of approval or qualification. If you really want to know if a person is in pursuit of a godly life, observation can tell you a lot— particularly if you are striving for a godly life as well. Ask if I’m a follower of Jesus and take it from there.

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