I have heard many different people in churches have a very bigoted and sexist view of women. In some congregations (and even in some denominations) women are second-class citizens that are not quite as important as men. There are verses in the New Testament that are taken out of the context of the letters within which they are found to justify this and seem to give divine support to the notion that women are not equal to men in the eyes of God–which is blatantly not true.
What is also frustrating to me is when some of these same people turn to Proverbs 31 to show women what kind of wife and mother they ought to be. The image that is projected or preached out of this passage is a woman who dutifully takes care of her house, her children, and her husband. It is the perfect “little homemaker” who could slip into a Donna Reed episode. Yet an honest reading of this passage does not give that idea at all:
A competent wife, how does one find her?
Her value is far above pearls.
11 Her husband entrusts his heart to her,
and with her he will have all he needs.
12 She brings him good and not trouble
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks out wool and flax;
she works joyfully with her hands.
14 She is like a fleet of merchant ships,
bringing food from a distance.
15 She gets up while it is still night,
providing food for her household,
even some for her female servants.
16 She surveys a field and acquires it;
from her own resources, she plants a vineyard.
17 She works energetically;
her arms are powerful.
18 She realizes that her trading is successful;
she doesn’t put out her lamp at night.
19 She puts her hands to the spindle;
her palms grasp the whorl.
20 She reaches out to the needy;
she stretches out her hands to the poor.
21 She doesn’t fear for her household when it snows,
because they are all dressed in warm clothes.
22 She makes bedspreads for herself;
fine linen and purple are her clothing.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates
when he sits with the elders of the land.
24 She makes garments and sells them;
she supplies sashes to traders.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
she is confident about the future.
26 Her mouth is full of wisdom;
kindly teaching is on her tongue.
27 She is vigilant over the activities of her household;
she doesn’t eat the food of laziness.
28 Her children bless her;
her husband praises her:
29 “Many women act competently,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Let her share in the results of her work;
let her deeds praise her in the city gates.
This is a successful businesswoman! This is someone who has financial resources to purchase land, start business ventures, and provide for the home just as much as the man does. This is not a woman who is subordinate to her husband, but one who works diligently just as he does in order to have a successful home.
This kind of work can take several forms. For some it is being engaged in the business world, either by choice or necessity. For some it is having a home business. For some it is staying home with little ones because the cost of daycare (which can be huge) cancels out the potential income from working. For some it is homeschooling because that, in essence, earns the tuition of the best private schools in America (which, again, can be huge). And there are others.
The take-away, though, is that the woman is just as much a decision-maker and just as much a provider for the home as the man. They are equally tasked with doing what they can to have a home that is not in want. This is the vision of a Woman of Worth.