First Reading: Proverb 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

The Ideal Believer

10 Who can find a worthy woman?
For her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her.
He shall have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works eagerly with her hands.

19 She lays her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her arms to the poor;
yes, she extends her hands to the needy.

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain;
but a woman who fears Yahweh, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands!
Let her works praise her in the gates!

World English Bible

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings and wisdom poems that found its present form after the return of the exiles from Babylon. However, many verses surely came from the period of the monarchy in Judea before its fall.

The poem of an ideal wife (31:10-31) comprised the last major section of Proverbs. The poem described the perfect wife as prudent, industrious, and wise. Such a woman would make a prosperous business person by today's standards. But, unlike today, the ideal wife in Proverbs did all this in the shadow of her husband. According to the custom and culture, the wife was part of the husband's family, so her loyalty belonged to her spouse. Even in acts of charity [31:20] she was to advance his reputation [31:23]. Above all, two qualities stand out, stability [31:25] and fidelity to the God of Israel [31:30 b]. Notice that the qualities of sensuality and femininity were absent [31:30a].

If we strip away the notion of the wife, the remaining qualities would describe a faithful believer. Prudent and wise. Generous and industrious. Stable and faithful. We should strive for these qualities in our lives.

Do you see any of these qualities in yourself? In your spouse (if you are married)? How have these qualities improved your life?