Women of Dignity, Washed in Grace
Proverbs 31 is infamously known in the church as the “perfect woman” that we should all strive to be. Without realizing it, we have created this woman into a to-do list that no one can achieve in life. She has become the standard that is unattainable. We often don’t know quite what to do with her. How do we truly live out biblical womanhood in a world that is constantly changing? There are countless teachings that object to a woman who is submissive, gentle, creative, servant-hearted (as seen in Scripture and in the Proverbs 31 woman). Ideas from the world that women should be independent of men and children have mixed with Christian theology, leaving us confused and doubtful. However, it is clear that all Scripture is breathed out by God and purposely placed in our Bible’s for our encouragement, correction, and affirmation (2 Timothy 3:16). Every word in Scripture is holy and has the power to change our hearts, including Proverbs 31. Before we begin studying, we must first look to the struggles in our hearts with the Proverbs 31 woman and break down what this woman is and what she is not.
The role of feminism has become increasingly prominent in the world and even in some churches. Teachings like submission and serving in the Bible have become unpopular and even seen as outdated. Feminism comes in many different shapes, but one overarching theme of feminism is that women’s identities should be found in what they do outside of the home. In Nancy Leigh Demoss’ article on how feminism has creeped into the church, she describes that there is a diminished emphasis on women’s roles in the home as “daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers” and an increasing emphasis has been placed on women’s roles outside of the home. This theology essentially flip-flops God’s design for biblical womanhood that is laid out throughout Scripture.
The misconceptions of Biblical womanhood are seeds planted by Satan for our discouragement. We have a real enemy in this world that does not want us to live biblical womanhood! The Proverbs 31 woman is a list of characteristics of a woman who fears the Lord, not a list of restraints that are outdated “to-do’s” that we must succumb to. God placed her description in the Word for our freedom, not for our confinement. Instead of viewing her as outdated, we should look at this text as an exciting guide and encouragement to live with purpose, joy, and an eternal mindset.
Another view of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is perfect. I grew up in the church and was taught that the Proverbs 31 woman was who I had to become in order to be a godly wife one day. I read the chapter over and over and just didn’t exactly understand how to connect the dots. I saw this chapter as separate from the gospel as more as a way to earn God’s favor. My friends and I dreamed of becoming this woman and would usually only pick out the verses that we liked and understood! The Proverbs 31 woman is a beautiful, biblical model to study, but she is not the goal. Christ is the goal. She is a model of a woman who fears the Lord and lives her life differently from the world. Her life is passionate, purposeful, and centered on the Lord.
In my “good girl” attempts to be a Christian, I saw the Proverbs 31 woman as a way to essentially convince God I was good enough. If I just checked off the list of biblical womanhood, God would reward me. Essentially, I began to live a works based Christianity. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Over the years, God has unlocked the shackles I had placed on my feet and wrists through the power of these two verses. We cannot work hard enough to earn God’s favor. That is not why Jesus came to die on the cross! Jesus came and shed His innocent blood because we could do nothing. We cannot earn salvation. Christ paid the enormous debt we owed. However, the beautiful thing is that when we are saved, we live our lives completely different! No longer do we strive for perfection to earn God’s favor or blessing, we strive to know and be like Christ. That is the blessing in itself! Biblical womanhood is lived in the shadow of the cross.
Instead of viewing the Proverbs 31 woman as outdated or as the perfect woman, we should see her as a follower of Christ. The entire chapter of Proverbs 31 is summed up in verse 30 - she is “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” She fears the Lord. She knows Yahweh God intimately. She trembles at His name. She has tasted of salvation and shares God’s gift of grace with her family, her friends, her coworkers, and the world around her. She is not a doormat that is stepped on, living a reclusive life.She is an open door to the gospel! She opens up her home for people to stay in and find refreshment. She opens up her heart to those in need and serves faithfully. She opens up her mouth and speaks wisdom. Jesus Christ is at the center of her heart and her home. Essentially, this woman is a follower. She fears God and follows His ways with joy, fervor, and steadfastness.
In day one of the Proverbs 31 study, we read this reminder:
“We are His. Purchased by His blood. Made into a brand new creation. Granted a new name and new identity. Made perfect in Christ Jesus. Given every excellent promise of Scripture. Deemed worthy of a new purpose and eternal destiny. This is who you are as a follower of Christ. You no longer are a part of the casting call of this world; you are a part of the family of God.”
We all need this reminder as we sift through theology, teachings, and ideas that have been mixed into the church and the world. We need to go back to the cross and bow before the feet of Jesus. We need to trade our me-centered world’s for a Christ-centered life. In this is fullness of joy forever! In Christ alone can we be women of dignity, washed in His grace.
As we study the Proverbs 31 woman, one prayer I have is that we would embrace God’s chisel and scrubbing brush. When we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, He changes us. He scrubs away sin and shame and polishes our hearts to reflect His glory and make us more like Christ. The chisel is a hard tool and one we fight against. But the chisel produces a rare jewel that reflects His nature in every facet. I long for us to become rare jewels that have been chiseled to reflect God’s grace. I also must admit that I am terrified. Writing this study was a hard, long, soul scrubbing process. God continually has weeded out my pursuit of perfection and continues to today. If you are going through the workbook with me over the course of these next few weeks, know that it was written by feeble fingers who long to make much of Jesus. My feeble fingers make spelling mistakes and aren’t the best at grammar. This is one thing that has kept me from writing at times. But over and over, God has reminded me that His grace is sufficient and His power made perfect in weakness, spelling errors and all. Today, I am trading my chase for perfection for the pursuit of Christ. I am trusting Him with any and every typo, knowing that He can even use those for His glory.
I write this study as a woman who has been washed by the blood of the Lamb and runs to His throne daily for grace. I am right there with you, sisters, in the struggling and the striving, and I am choosing to lay down my list of “perfect” and to trade it for Christ Who is perfect. Let’s walk together in light of His grace as we study the Proverbs 31 woman. My heart is ready for all that God is going to do!
Here is a breakdown of how we will study:
Starting today, April 6th, we will study Week 1, Day 1, and then study for the following five weeks. You can do the introduction and “Behind The Chapter” in your own personal study. We will study Monday-Friday together. On the weekends, you can either review what we have studied or meditate on other Scripture. I will post an Instagram Monday-Friday about each day and will also post 1-2 blog posts each week with one video. Share what you are learning through the hashtag #LLBProverbs31 so we can come together as a community and encourage one another through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship!
If you would like to join in the study, you can purchase your workbook here!
Excited to journey with you!