From the time I was old enough to work an after-school job, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I had a game plan. Star student and valued employee, I closely identified with the Proverbs 31 woman; she embodies the modern-day linchpin concept: goal-setting, prioritizing and productivity. But it wasn’t until I was put out of work due to major surgery that I realized what I didn’t have in common with her.
Without a title or task list, I felt all my strength and dignity had been stripped away. But the woman in Proverbs 31 is fearless. She laughs confidently at the days to come. Why? It’s not immediately apparent, but by examining the surrounding context of the passage, I get a sense that her identity isn’t tied to her ability to do.
The key to understanding her isn’t found in her multitasking skills or her ability to make a profit (31:18). Rather, it’s found in the closing verses of the chapter: “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” (Prov 31:29–30). “Fearing the LORD” isn’t fear in the way we usually think of it, and it’s not merely obedience. It marks a profound reverence for God that includes knowledge of who He is (1:29; 8:13; 14:26; 19:23). The book of Proverbs begins and ends with this theme, making the Proverbs 31 woman the climactic example of fearing God.
I also found that I identified with another biblical woman. Eve is the scriptural antithesis of the Proverbs 31 woman. She sought wisdom and had goals. However, when she was tempted to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Eve chose to be “wise in [her] own eyes,” something Proverbs warns against (3:7). Rather than depend on God for wisdom, Eve chose wisdom through “pride and arrogance and the way of evil” (8:13). She desired knowledge, but it came from the one she chose to rebel against. Her resulting identity crisis was catastrophic.
During those long days after surgery, I recovered more than my health. When I took an honest look at myself and realized I had let my work and accomplishments define me, I recovered my identity as well. I learned more from the Proverbs 31 woman when I didn’t look at her accomplishments or even her wisdom; instead, I looked at the source of her confidence and wisdom, our ultimate example: God.
Biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Dig deeper into the text of Proverbs 31 with Emily Mockovciak’s Woman of Valor. Go to Logos.com/Valor