“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
“The perfect woman, who can find?”
If you read this whole excerpt you might think that’s what it says at the beginning, but it’s does not actually use the word perfect… nor woman, in this one, come to think of it. It says “excellent wife” or “virtuous wife” or “virtuous woman” all are acceptable. Many of the translations I’ve read say “wife” instead of woman, because that’s the implied context of this “lady” it’s referring to.
Unfortunately this often gets taken more literal than most of the other Proverbs which have great literal advice. After all, if it says woman or wife surely it means exactly that. What other context could it be in?
This scripture is often used to explain what the standard is for women who are thinking about getting married in a Christian marriage context. Yet that’s really sub-par to the bigger picture. Two big things should be noted really quickly:
1. This is the last chapter in Proverbs a book of wisdom, which teaches anyone who’s willing to learn about the greater, smarter truths that need to prevail in the midst of each of our lives.
- When Proverbs refers to a “woman” it is more often a parallel for a greater concept, possibly the imaginary of a reproductive entity with charisma and attractiveness, and then from there, the words that follow really tell you what exactly (good or bad) that particular Proverb is talking about.
One day as I read this passage of Proverbs 31, I realized that it is talking about the church. Not the buildings, gatherings, systems, programs, events, or other things claiming to be “the real McCoy” but the beautiful, loving, welcoming church also known as the Bride of Christ. I started tearing up and crying without realizing it. She’s so beautiful, and somehow I never say her right there in the midst of the poetry! I loved her instantly.
St Augustine is quoted as saying,
“the church is whore, but she’s my mother and I love her”
I am quoted as saying, “I love the church, she’s my mother! …and that’s not her.”
Let’s set this record straight!
The church who is the Bride of Christ is not a whore.
She’s a blameless, stainless, pure. She’s beautiful. She’s welcoming (Revelations 22:17). She’s loving. She works through the night (times of darkness), she still cares for the poor and needy, and yet never neglects her own household. She works hard because she cares. She is not afraid and she even laughs, knowing what is to come. She’s strong, dignified, perceptive, diligent, and loved, so very loved and honored by her husband (who is Christ Jesus). Who would dare call Christ’s Bride a whore? Not this woman!
I recognize her. I recognize her voice, her smell, her smile… that’s my mother. That is the church, or maybe you know her as Zion. I love her! She makes me proud. I love the way Jesus smiles at her. I love her song in the midst of the worst times. She’s fearless and ever loving. She never stops loving. I know her so well, and yet I wish I knew her more.
No one can step into these shoes and call itself church. I know my mother too well to believe that. No one can be “the church” and neglect the fact that she is also Zion. She doesn’t “replace” Zion, she was known as Zion before I called her my momma, before you called her the church. She’s one in the same, the radiant Bride of Christ.
Jesus said, “my sheep know my voice”. He said this because sheep are known for scurrying away from anyone who approaches them, but whom they do not recognize the voice, and rightfully so. Sheep are animals who are commonly attacked & eaten as prey of other creatures, they have to remain on their guard. But OH, the voice of the shepherd can be trusted! However, I simply propose that it’s not just Jesus’ voice that we must recognize for our own safety, but also the voice of his Bride. We must also hear the call of Zion to come up!