If you ask a self-identifying Christian woman, "Who is Proverbs 31?" It's highly likely she'll say:
"My favorite woman in the Bible!" The author of Proverbs 31 describes her as "a virtuous woman" and goes on to list what deems her worthy of such a title. You'll read about her work ethic, leadership skills, fashion sense, and much more. It's a lovely read and breath of fresh air compared to some dismal depictions of women in the Old Testament. Yet, upon closer inspection, the Proverbs 31 lifestyle sounds exhausting. And I have a feeling the current trend of workaholic, Christian boss ladies who need every aspect of their lives to be a stream of income or ministry opportunity directly correlates to the idolization of the Proverbs 31 woman.
This article isn't shade to Proverbs 31 herself, but rather a challenge to the idol many have made out her. It's an opportunity to reflect on why many of us want our lives to look like hers instead of the lives of other badass women in the Bible (or even the life of Jesus Christ).
There was once a time where even I hoped to have a life that looked like Proverbs 31 eventually. However, the further I journey into the workforce and womanhood. The more I wonder, is aspiring to become Proverbs 31 even realistic? Is her lifestyle emotionally, mentally, and physically sustainable? Is it what I actually want? Is it spiritually responsible to have Proverbs 31 as my only measure of virtue?
There are a lot of admiral aspects of Proverbs 31. Her altruism and care for the poor. Her royal fashion sense. Her tenacity and ability to laugh at the days to come. Her wisdom and reverence for the LORD. These characteristics don't stem from the fact that she's wealthy. Yet for some reason Christians keep boiling her down to her affluent "boss" status. What an elitist and limited lens.
Being a virtuous woman expands far beyond the rigid standards and aesthetics propagated by today's popular church culture. You don't have to be a millionaire in the making with a bunch of IG followers and 12 books about "Biblical dating" to find favor in God's eyes.
Furthermore, Proverbs 31 is not the only depiction of a virtuous women in the Biblical text. Sex-trafficked Hagar is virtuous too. The desperate widow who needed Elisha for oil is virtuous too. Crafty Jael is virtuous too. Mary Magdalene is virtuous too. There is virtue and glory in being "of no reputation." Virtue can be found in women from all walks of life--not just wealthy wives with business and political influence. The same reigns true today.
I refuse to limit myself to becoming Proverbs 31 when she already existed. I can't live her life, but I can learn from her--and Deborah, Daniel, and many others in the Bible. In fact, I don't even have to limit myself to the examples depicted in scripture. The Word doesn't call us "poems" and "living epistles" for nothing. The LORD is writing a new chapter out of my life with every breath I take.