She has been written about to death – eulogized, mourned and buried. However, I contend that the Proverbs 31 Woman was never meant to be a eulogy on womanhood. I contend that she was and is quite real and very much alive.
She is the Woman of Noble Character or the Virtuous Woman; we know her as many things, don’t we? We’ve studied her, read about her, listened to messages about her, prayed that very section of scripture. Men have considered her some sort of an ideal, as the type of woman they should seek to marry. While women have long given up on ever looking anything like that!
Was she a real person? Was this passage intended as instructional for men? Was it meant to inspire women to achieve something different? Was it metaphorical as the Bride of Messiah? I don’t really know the answers to this, but I believe she was very real.
I believe she was real back then, when this passage was written, because she is real today. She is as real as the coffee you’re drinking and the purse on your shoulder. She is as real as the blouse you’re wearing and the shoes on your feet. I know because I’ve seen her. In fact, I worked for her!
She is quite real, this Proverbs 31 Woman
This woman of noble character, she rises early in the morning making breakfast for her children, and the poor children she has taken in off the streets. She has adopted because she had the means to do so. She cleans up her dwelling and wipes her kids’ faces before she sends them off to school with a prayer and hurries across town herself where she weaves fabric to make purses that she sells around the world. Certain companies have noticed her craft, her skillful handiwork, and have contracted with her to make thousands of purses, so many that she has to hire more women to help her. Together they work with their hands, while singing hymns, skillfully weaving and sewing, packaging, and shipping, …and together they rise. Together, this small woman-owned business changes the landscape of her community. Her work brings hope to her children. They arise and call her blessed, and they too are blessed for knowing her.
These women rise from the ash heap. They rise from the dump. They rise from war-torn lands where women have no rights and aren’t guaranteed an education. They fight for everything they have. And because they fight for it, they don’t carelessly spend their earnings on frivolity.
With their earnings which they receive from afar, they feed their families and pay their rent, and with the extra they save so they can, one day, invest in a business, perhaps a farm for their family to grow a crop they can earn more income from. They make careful, strategic, wise financial decisions. They see the fruit of their labor.
Is she rare?
Yes! Much too rare! And I am ashamed to say that I am responsible, and so are you.
Unfortunately, in America, our circumstances, our culture, and the cost of living, perhaps, have all but done away with this kind of woman. She is desperately rare overseas, but she is nearly non-existent in the United States.
Here women have resorted to shopping, to materialism and consumerism. We bought a lie, mostly fed to us by giant advertising agencies, becoming self-focused and meanwhile losing the blessing of this kind of virtue – the character of nobility we see in Proverbs 31.
What is preventing Her Existence?
It is our very culture of cheap consumerism that has destroyed the ability of much of the world to earn a real income, feed their families, and for women to invest in micro-businesses changing the economic climate of their communities forever.
It is sweatshops, it is slavery, it is bond servanthood that produce much of what we buy and consume today. And that’s why we don’t see her. That’s why we forgot she could be real, that this virtue is achievable.
How Do We Create an Environment for Her to Re-Emerge?
If we, each and every one of us, intentionally bought less stuff, but better stuff, from these kinds of women… from women with fair trade business, we’d see them emerge again. We’d see the Proverbs 31 Woman showing up all over the world, caring for others, changing her community, serving the poor, feeding her family, and praising God for her opportunity.
The women in the United States would themselves begin to see the value of people over the products and the very nature of cheap fast consumerism would die. Small business would begin to thrive and we might even see This Virtuous Woman re-emerge here.
When we buy a cheap pair of flip-flops, an inexpensive purse, and mass-produced clothes, we’re saying that is acceptable. When we buy chocolate or coffee or flowers that are produced by slaves, we are voting for the world we’ve created. The world, where it seems unthinkable for a woman to care for her family well, to help the poor, to produce an actual product, sell it and invest her income in further endeavors. Instead, we get houses and storage units filled with stuff that doesn’t fill the void we’ve created in our hearts.
We can only change the world, we can only see the Proverbs 31 Woman Re-Emerge when we want to so badly that we will do whatever it takes, even if it means spending a little extra to buy the purse from an artisan in India, the coffee from a fair trade farmer in Costa Rica, and the shoes from a girl who is selling them to pay her way to school in Uganda.
This is where the seeds of change are planted. Today, I hope, in your heart. Tomorrow, in the lives of real Proverbs 31 Women.
Are you ready?