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Sermon Meanderings: The Proverbs 31 Woman – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Sep 162009

I’m preaching this Sunday at church. I specifically asked my pastor if I could preach because of the text from The Hebrew Scriptures: Proverbs 31:10-31. I used to hate this woman. If you come from a conservative or fundamentalist Christian background, you know what I’m talking about. Every single, freaking Mother’s Day the (male) pastor brushes off this passage and preaches how a good Christian woman ought to act. She’s the best wife, mother, and homekeeper of them all. She eschews the public sector and takes care of her home and family. She keeps her house clean, obeys her husband and submits to him, is a wonderful mother, and gets the meals on the table on time. She’s SuperWifeMom.

By the time I hit my teens I was groaning and tuning the pastor out. By the time I hit my early 30s, still single, not sure I wanted to get married, and was pretty sure I didn’t want the whole kids thing, I stopped going to church on Mother’s Day. If there was one Saturday to conveniently forget to set my alarm clock and not make it to church on Sunday, without feeling guilty about it, it was Mother’s Day. If there is one thing I love about liturgical churches that follow the lectionary, it is this: I do not have to put up with Mother’s Day motherdolotry every single year.

Unfortunately for the conservative evangelical background I grew up with, it was beat into my head that every good Christian reads the Bible for herself. She sees what is there, so she won’t fall into error. This really backfired where I am concerned. I did read my Bible. I wanted to know what it said, and how I should act. And I noticed something. I noticed that what I heard all those years about the Proverbs 31 was not all of the story. That this woman was not restricted to her home and family. I got to know an entirely different woman when I read her story for myself and saw what was there and what wasn’t there (a lot of time what isn’t there is more important than what is. It takes a lot of reading and questioning to peel away all the traditions and interpretations we grew up with, regardless of our tradition.)

Now It’s Your Turn

I am going to post Proverbs 31:10-31, and I want you to answer these questions:

  • What does the passage say?
  • What doesn’t the passage say?
  • Does what is there match up with what I’ve heard about this woman?

I want to know what you discover and find, so please leave a comment because you will see things I don’t see. All of us will see something different, and all of our views will develop a more complete picture of the Proverbs 31 woman.

Proverbs 31:10-31

10A capable wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

11The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

12She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

13She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

14She is like the ships of the merchant,

she brings her food from far away.

15She rises while it is still night

and provides food for her household

and tasks for her servant-girls.

16She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

17She girds herself with strength,

and makes her arms strong.

18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

19She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

20She opens her hand to the poor,

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

21She is not afraid for her household when it snows,

for all her household are clothed in crimson.

22She makes herself coverings;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23Her husband is known in the city gates,

taking his seat among the elders of the land.

24She makes linen garments and sells them;

she supplies the merchant with sashes.

25Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

26She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27She looks well to the ways of her household,

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28Her children rise up and call her happy;

her husband too, and he praises her:

29“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

30Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Monday I found out something about the Proverbs 31 woman I never knew before. I’ll share it tomorrow. But first I want to know: What do you see? Who is this woman? What are the misinterpretations you’ve heard about her? What do her actions say about her? How does her story help you live your own story?

Related Post
Proverbs 31: A “Capable” Wife, Huh?

Sermon: Dame Wisdom in Action
Poem: In the Beginning Was

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  10 Responses to “Sermon Meanderings: The Proverbs 31 Woman”

  1. […] Shawna Atteberry, one of the editors of the DFV, has a great post over on her blog about “The Proverbs 31 Woman. It’s well worth […]

  2. […] in Sermon Meanderings: The Proverbs 31 Woman, I told you that I discovered something about this woman earlier this week, I had never known. […]

  3. […] normal Friday procedure. So that’s good. Some of my musings on the Proverbs 31 Woman can be find here and here. After coffee hour Sunday, two psychologists in our church are going to be talking about […]

  4. Shawna,
    One of the things that doesn’t jump out is that she is happy! She likes what she’s doing. She laughs, she is wise and speaks kindly and her husband trusts her. The fact that she deals openly with merchants and makes her own land purchases means she commands respect from men other than her husband, doesn’t it? She is not the least concerned about status – but is that because she already has it by marriage or birth? – and she is a very good manager.
    If we can understand that she is an example to men and women alike in today’s world, then this reading becomes meaningful for me again. My dislike for it has known no bounds up until now. 😉

  5. I understand your dislike for this passage. I hated this women for years. In fact, my sermon starts out: “Aah the Proverbs 31 woman, let me count the ways I hate thee.”

    But so much does jump out as you read it and see what is actually there instead of what the patriarchs want to be there.

  6. […] Posts Sermon Meanderings: The Proverbs 31 Woman Proverbs 31: A “Capable” Wife, Huh? Poem: In the Beginning Was Sphere: Related […]

  7. […] Posts Sermon Meanderings: The Proverbs 31 Woman Proverbs 31: A “Capable” Wife, Huh?” Sermon: Dame Wisdom in Action Sphere: […]

  8. Yes! Praise god Almighty! His glory is shown through the generations of those that do his Will. I’ve been doing a “Woman of God” study and it has brought out great names like Esther, Deborah, Phoebe, Tabitha, etc; women whose trust and total confidence is in the Lord.
    “The Lord is my confidence” (King David. These are women surrendered to His Mighty and Powerful Willand His Glory shines through illuminating every aspects of their lives and utilizing their God-given talents and skills like their faith and intellect all in submission to God’s Will.
    I especially liked the part where she is comands respect in the marketplace.

  9. I see this woman/wife of Proverbs 31 in Michelle Obama. I say this because I believe that the First Lady would make the statement that she, like the woman in Proverbs 31, “fears the Lord.” It is not fear for life or salvation but one of respect and understanding that all she has accomplished come from the wisdom that God has gifted her with. And she gives back to God and humaity out of the love she has received from the Lord. Today the woman in Proverbs 31 would be a First Lady, maybe a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or the first woman president of the U.S.A.

  10. I think there’s more to the Proverbs 31 woman than people initially realize when just reading the passage. I’ve incidentally been reading a new book by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst called “Kingdom Woman” that has given me new insights. Right off the bat they talk about the Proverbs 31 woman being the hallmark of kingdom women, “But the Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. Neither is a kingdom woman called to perfection. Women, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman and more – but that doesn’t mean you do it all at the same time.” They talk about life flowing through seasons and about getting help, not trying to do it all. It’s really eye-opening. Thank you for your perspective in your article. If you’re interested in Dr. Evan’s book, they have information and free devotional downloads at kingdomwomanbook.com. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

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