Portraying Christian Femininity

Patricia A. Ennis

Holding to a biblical view of femininity is quite unpopular in our contemporary society; it is frequently perceived as demeaning, inferior, and limiting. Regrettably, this attitude has now affected American evangelicalism, so that the issue must be clarified by recovering a biblical worldview of femininity.

Femininity, by dictionary definition, means “having qualities or characteristics traditionally ascribed to women, as sensitivity, delicacy, or prettiness.” According to Elisabeth Elliot, “That word ‘femininity’ is one that we don’t hear very often anymore. We’ve heard the word ‘feminist’ quite often in the last couple of decades, but we haven’t really heard much about the deep mystery that is called femininity. The word has fallen on hard times, partly because of stereotypes as opposed to archetypes.”

She then offers several thoughts that place femininity in a Christian context:

To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous and fluff-brained, but she is gentle. She is gracious. She is godly and she is giving. . . .

You and I, if we are women, have the gift of femininity. Very often it is obscured, just as the image of God is obscured in all of us. . . .

I find myself in the sometimes quite uncomfortable position of having to belabor the obvious, and hold up examples of femininity to women who almost feel apologetic for being feminine or being womanly. I would remind you that femininity is not a curse. It is not even a triviality. It is a gift, a divine gift, to be accepted with both hands, and to thank God for. Because remember, it was His idea. . . .

God’s gifts are masculinity and femininity within the human race and there was never meant to be any competition between them. The Russian philosopher Bergiath made this statement: “The idea of woman’s emancipation is based upon a profound enmity between the sexes, upon envy and imitation.”

The more womanly we are, the more manly men will be, and the more God is glorified. As I say to you women, “Be women. Be only women. Be real women in obedience to God.”

Femininity’s contemporary downward spiral began in the early 1960s with the advent of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique. Friedan advocated that strong women pursue power that provides the path toward self-actualization and happiness. Her philosophy drew thousands of women into “the power trap” that eventually resulted in their cynical approach to life and disillusionment in their newfound freedom. Gloria Steinem perpetuated Friedan’s teachings in the 1970s and moved the feminist agenda to middle-class suburban mothers. Eventually the trickle-down effect occurred, and the feminist agenda infiltrated evangelicalism. Today many women in mainline evangelical churches have substituted the contemporary, cultural view of femininity for the biblical view. However, it was neither Friedan nor Steinem who authored the philosophy that power provides self-actualization and happiness; rather; it was Satan who first suggested this lie to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-8) and prompted her to challenge God’s command to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17).

The woman desiring to embrace Christian femininity begins with the presuppositions that God 1) created her in His own image (Gen 1:27) and 2) designed her to fulfill specific roles (Gen 2:18). John Piper and Wayne Grudem write:

The tendency today is to stress the equality of men and women by minimizing the unique significance of our maleness or femaleness. But this depreciation of male and female personhood is a great loss. It is taking a tremendous toll on generations of young men and women who do not know what it means to be a man or a woman. Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood today is epidemic. The consequence of this confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free persons relating on the basis of abstract competencies. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.

Scripture is replete with directives that instruct the Christian woman to portray her femininity by helping (Gen 2:18), exhibiting graciousness (Prov 11:16), living a pure life (1 Pet 3:1-2), dressing modestly (1 Tim 2:9; 1 Pet 3:3), developing “a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet 3:4), submitting to her husband (Eph 5:22), and teaching the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Of all the Scriptures that teach on this subject, Proverbs 31:10-31 is the only one that presents a thorough literary sketch of the woman who portrays Christian femininity. Thus it demands our attention for this study.

A Biblical Sketch of the Worthy Woman

Virtuous, trustworthy, energetic, physically fit, economical, unselfish, honorable, lovable, prepared, prudent, and God-fearing encompass eleven features highlighting the character of the worthy woman in Proverbs 31:10-31. While many believe that the woman described in this passage is fictional rather than a real woman whose life Christian women are challenged to emulate in principle, the divinely intended truth application cannot be doubted (2 Tim 3:1617). The immutability (unalterableness) of God demands that Proverbs 31:10-31 is timelessly relevant in principle. If one thinks that God changed His mind about the chief application of one passage of Scripture, how then can one be sure He has not changed His mind about others? J. I. Packer, in Knowing God, lists six attributes of God that it would be helpful to remind ourselves of prior to studying the eleven characteristics presented in the Proverbs 31 passage.

1. God’s life does not change.

2. God’s character does not change.

3. God’s truth does not change.

4. God’s ways do not change.

5. God’s purposes do not change

6. God’s Son does not change.

Since God does not change, then fellowship with Him, trust in His Word, living by faith, and embracing His principles are the same for twenty-first-century believers as they were for those in Old and New Testament times. The description of the godly woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is not designed to develop an inferiority complex. Rather, it provides a biblical foundation for the development of principles by which Christian femininity can be portrayed. While the outward historical context and practice have changed since King Lemuel wrote that passage in the book of Proverbs, the character principles have not.

Learning From the Wisdom of Others

Biblical wisdom “is both religious and practical. Stemming from the fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Pry 1:7; 9:10) it branches out to touch all of life, as the extended commentary on wisdom in Proverbs indicates. Wisdom takes insights gleaned from the knowledge of God’s way and applies them in the daily walk.”

Scripture provides the basis for wise instruction (2 Tim 3:16-17). Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:6, reminds believers, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” Titus 2:4-5 instructs the older women to “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

The MacArthur Study Bible introduces the book of Proverbs by stating:

The proverbs are short, pithy sayings which express timeless truth and wisdom. They arrest one’s thoughts, causing the reader to reflect on how one might apply divine principles to life situations. . . . To the Hebrew mind, wisdom was not knowledge alone, but the skill of living a godly life as God intended man to live.

Essential to becoming a worthy woman is the personal appropriation of biblical principles that motivate one’s decisions and actions. Principle can be described as “an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct.” Reflecting upon the question, “What are my specific abilities, heritage, and talents that make me unique and determine my professed rules of action or conduct?” can motivate the manner in which biblical principles are obeyed. Their implementation ultimately determines the character of a woman and whether she is considered wise or foolish; thus the worthy woman possesses a heart that is open to learning from the experience and wisdom of others, including the woman of Proverbs 31, who exhibits at least eleven principles by which to live a godly life.

Being Virtuous

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
PROV 31:10

Moral excellence, right actions, and thinking that is true, worthy, just, pure, lovely, of good report, possessing virtue, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8-9) characterize the principle of being virtuous. Virtue is an effective power and force that should permeate all thoughts, actions, and relationships of the worthy woman. When integrated into her life, the principle generates power and demands respect.

The worthy woman establishes Godly guidelines for living according to the Scriptures and purposes, through the strength of the Holy Spirit, to abide by them (Phil 4:13). The Old Testament book of Ruth describes such a woman. Ruth 3:11 is the only scriptural reference to a “virtuous” woman (KJV, NKJV, NIV; ESV “worthy”) and explains that Boaz knew about Ruth because of her reputation for excellence. In contrast, Rahab’s reputation as a harlot followed her throughout the Scriptures (Josh 2:1; 6:17; Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25). Though God saved Rahab and by His grace allowed her to be included in the Messianic line (Matt 1:5), her reputation as a harlot lingered.

The worthy woman is a crown to her husband. A woman lacking in virtue causes him shame and produces suffering that is like a painful, incurable condition (Prov 12:4). A woman’s character prior to marriage will determine her quality as a marital spouse, thus underscoring the importance for every Christian woman to embrace virtue at an early age. To live a life characterized by virtue should be the ambition of every Christian woman (Matt 5:8).

Being Trustworthy

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life. . . .
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
PROV 31:11-12, 23

The principle of being trustworthy is demonstrated by behaviors that lead to confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, and loyalty of an individual. Integrity (i.e., the quality or state of being complete [Col 2:10]) is demonstrated through how one handles abundance, because prosperity tends to reveal our value system (1 Cor 10:1-10).

The character of the worthy woman motivates her husband to respond with trust (Prov 31:11). This trustworthy lifestyle includes the nurturing of security, love, service, limits, freedom, enjoyment, faith, and encouragement. Her husband and those under her leadership are challenged to reach their full potential (Prov 18:22; 19:14). She understands that she has the ability to feed or starve their character and thus handles this privilege through the strength of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16-26).

The worthy woman can live in today’s world with or without a husband. As she 1) implements Psalm 37:3-4, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Jeremiah 29:11-13, 2) trusts in her Heavenly Father, and 3) affirms that He is a sun and shield, He gives her grace and glory. “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). If married, her husband’s response to her character is trust. If unmarried, trustworthiness is the evaluation of those closest to her.

The fruit of trustworthiness is an understanding, encouraging, sympathetic, and tactful spirit. A trustworthy woman has the ability to retain another’s confidence and maintain confidentiality (Prov 10:19) and possesses stability in her life, based upon a growing relationship with the Lord rather than on circumstances (Jas 1:5-6). She also has the ability to resist temptation and exhibits dependability (1 Cor 10:12-13).

Being Energetic

She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
And provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. . . .
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night. . . .
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. . . .
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
-PROV 31:13-16, 18, 24, 27

Being energetic suggests that strength or power is efficiently exerted. A worthy woman knows her assets and liabilities, develops her talents, exhibits the attributes of being alert and aware, and is a worker, not a shirker. She works willingly with her hands (the word hands is used seven times in twenty-two verses of Prov 31:10-31).

This worthy woman sets an example for her children by her personal physical involvement in the management of her home. In the context of Proverbs 31, she trained her servants and then supervised the tasks they performed. She was actively involved in her well-managed household (v. 27), fabric and garment construction (vv. 13-24), trading in the marketplace (v. 24), and ministry to others (W. 19-20). Application to the twenty-first century would find the worthy woman training her children and then supervising them to efficiently use today’s many “electrical servants.” Concurrently, she is involved in Christian services that complement those toward her children, rather than neglecting them to perform “her ministries.” Her role model is Christ (Phil 2:5-11), who cares much more about those under Him than they are about Him.

Most twenty-first-century women can identify with their lamp not going out at night (v. 18) because of the intense schedules they maintain. However, this verse does not suggest that the worthy woman deprives herself of sleep. Just as exercise contributes to a physically fit body, so sleep is necessary to an energetic woman’s mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.

Being Physically Fit

She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong
-PROV 31:17

Physical fitness, i.e., being in good physical condition and healthy is enthusiastically affirmed by many twenty-first-century women. The biblical application is defined by three words; suitable, proper, and fit. They describe the worthy woman’s attitude toward the condition of her body. A concern or what is suitable guides the worthy woman in the selection of physical toning activities that prepare her to fulfill the demands of her life. A concern for what is proper
encourages her to select activities that are dictated by good judgment. A concern for what is fit expands the definition to challenge her to possess the qualifications necessary to meet the purposes, circumstances, and demands of her life.

First Timothy 4:8 directs wise women to the truth that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The worthy woman will be more concerned about the highest priority of her character without neglecting her body tone (1 Pet 3:3-6). The following guidelines addressing her attitude toward her body will help balance the physical and spiritual sides of fitness.

First, she has a realistic attitude toward personal capabilities. God provides health parameters to assist us in being sensible about the responsibilities we assume. Just because a woman, can perform a skill does not mean that she should. Purposely pushing beyond safe health parameters would be like a woman jumping off the Golden Gain Bridge and then praying on the way down that she won’t get hurt! This would be sinfully presumptuous.

Second, the worthy woman acknowledges that her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that it is her responsibility to make it a fit dwelling-place for Him (1 Cor 6:19-20). It is a sobering thought to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit will not empower a spiritually dirty vessel.

Third, she realizes that she must be healthy to perform her duties efficiently. Cultivating this quality requires freedom from all habits that would injure her physically, mentally, or spiritually (Rom 12:1-2).

Fourth, she understands the importance of recreation to maintain a healthy body. Mark 6:31 and Luke 9:10 describe our Lord’s sensitivity to His disciples’ need for rest and privacy from their demanding ministry. The worthy woman will adopt our Lord’s model.

Fifth, she accepts the fact that sometimes “others can, I cannot.” It is an exercise in futility to compare her capabilities with those of others, since each woman is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14).

Finally, the worthy woman has a clear perspective regarding her body cycling. She wisely accommodates to its ebb and flow. The circumspect physical conditioning of the worthy woman allows her to be involved in the lives of others. She will balance the care of her home with the care of her body to avoid becoming a worried, frazzled, and defensive woman who sacrifices herself on the altar of domesticity or physical fitness.

Being Economical

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
–PROV 31:18A

Budget and diet are two words that conjure up visions of economic and nutritional deprivation. Each word, however, possesses both a positive and a negative connotation. A budget can be established for either a high or low income. A diet can constitute an unlimited or restrictive daily caloric intake. The principle of being economical challenges the worthy woman to refrain from wasting time, money, fuel, or any other resource. Implementation of this principle ensures that she operates her home on a budget (a plan for spending) and that it balances each month (not too much month at the end of money).

The worthy woman of Proverbs 31 perceives that money involves stewardship. As an accomplished seamstress and nutritionist, she recognizes quality. With a practiced.eye, she seeks out bargains that reflect excellence. Concurrently, her knowledge and skill allow her to make appropriate decisions regarding whether to make the purchase, pay for the service, or personally perform the task.

Being Unselfish

She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
-PROV 31:19-20

Selfishness is a trait that the worthy woman seeks to eliminate from the list of her character qualities. By definition it means having such regard for one’s own interests and advantage that the happiness and welfare of others become of less concern than is appropriate. Selfishness stems from pride and is first in the list of sins most detested by God (Prov 6:16-19). Taken to extremes, it can be deadly.

The body of an ancient woman mummified by the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius was unearthed when the Roman City of Pompeii was excavated. Her feet pointed toward the city gate, but her outreached arms and fingers were straining for something that lay behind her. The treasure for which she was grasping was a bag of pearls. Of her it was written, “Though death was hard at her heels, and life was beckoning to her beyond the city gates, she could not shake off their spell, but it was not the eruption of Vesuvius that made her love pearls more than life. It only froze her in this attitude of greed.” Her position told a tragic story of selfishness.

Anything can fuel the flames of excessive desire and greed. If not checked, they can destroy women (Prov 1:19). The wealthy landowners in Isaiah’s day acquired more and more houses and fields until they had a monopoly (Isa 5:8). But God said that they would become desolate and their lands would not produce (vv. 9-10). Wise is the woman who lives by the principle that if she is not satisfied with what she has, she will never be satisfied with what she wants.

Several characteristics describe the worthy woman’s attitude toward money and material possessions. All resources are a gift from the Lord to be utilized with discretion (Deut 8:18; Acts 4:32-37; 1 Tim 6:17-19). God does not love the poor and hate the rich. The Bible reports a number of godly individuals who were exceedingly wealthy; Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Josiah, Barnabas, Philemon, and Lydia, to name a few. God does, however, hate false gain (Prov 1:19), wrong motives for acquiring wealth (Prov 13:11), and a lack of compassionate generosity among the wealthy (Prov 14:20-21; 16:19). The wise woman applies the truth of Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.”

The worthy woman possesses an attitude of contentment that corresponds with the New Testament teaching found in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, which essentially states that Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain! Evidence that wealth is not the source of her contentment is found in her attitude of humility patterned after her Lord (Phil 2:8; 1 Pet 5:5). She does not trust in her wealth for security (Ps 20:7; Prov 11:28) and is a gracious (Prov 11:16), generous woman (Prov

The worthy woman exhibits an absence of selfish attributes. She is not too busy with her own affairs to take time to assist others. The spindle and distaff; two flat, circular objects used to work textile fibers, were tools of the day. The worthy woman used them to provide for her family, herself, and the less fortunate. That “she opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” indicates her response to calls for help (Prov 31:20). Her actions demonstrate both responsiveness and initiative; she gives when she is asked and is sensitive to offer assistance when she is not asked. Embracing a spiritual attitude toward helping, the worthy woman is like Dorcas, who was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36).

Unselfishness is most graphically demonstrated in the worthy woman’s willingness to share her time with others. Time is our most precious commodity, and the highest compliment that can be paid to others is the time we share with them. This woman is not a respecter of persons Gas 2:1-13) but rather is willing to place before the Lord the requests of all who desire to benefit from her wisdom.

Being Prepared

She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple. . .
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
-PROV 31:21-22, 27

Putting events, objects, or people in order, as well as making suitable and receptive, are phrases that describe the principle of preparedness in action. The worthy woman demonstrates planning and foresight that equip her for unforeseen circumstances. She acquires adequate provisions for unknown needs rather than living from crisis to crisis. Concurrent with physical provisions, this worthy woman knows the value of being spiritually prepared. Similar to saving a percentage of each paycheck, she builds a spiritual reserve for challenging times. The prophet Jeremiah refers to the woman who trusts in the Lord as being prepared in that she will be “like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit”
(Jer 17:7-8). The heat will come, and the drought is certain; however, there is no fear when one is prepared.

Her firm grip on spiritual priorities allows her to be prepared for the future. Charles Hummel urges his readers to evaluate their priorities daily:

Some time ago, Simba bullets killed a young man, Dr. Paul Carlson. In the providence of God his life’s work was finished. Most of us will live longer and die more quietly, but when the end comes, what would give us greater joy than being sure that we have finished the work that God gave us to do? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ makes this fulfillment possible. He has promised deliverance from sin and the power to serve God in the tasks of His choice. The way is clear. If we continue in the world of our Lord, we are truly his disciples. And he will free us from the tyranny of the urgent; free us to do the important, which is the will of God.

The worthy woman will refuse to allow the urgent to take the place of the important in her life.

Being Honorable

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
PROV 31:25

Being honorable is synonymous with having integrity and is evidenced by others’ high regard or respect for the worthy woman. She possesses a keen sense of right or wrong, and her moral uprightness is apparent to all. Several attributes will emerge as the worthy woman assimilates this principle into her life:

– Her outer adorning complements her inward qualities (1 Pet 3:3-4).

– She abstains from every appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22).

– She possesses strong convictions of right and wrong (Prov 14:12; 16:25; Matt 7:13-14).

– The convictions she embraces are based upon biblical principles (Ps 119:11, 105) rather than cultural trends.

If married, the worthy woman’s high standards of behavior make a significant contribution to her husband’s position (Prov 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 31:23). She functions as a helpmate (Gen 2:18) and purposes to never be an embarrassment or a hindrance to her husband.

The worthy woman acquires a stable, honest reputation. Strength and honor accompany her business acumen (Prov 31:25). Desiring to walk worthy of her calling (Eph 4:1-2), she leads a life that brings glory to God (1 Cor 10:31). Humility, unselfishness, gentleness, mildness, patience, bearing with others, and making allowances for others are characteristic of her Godly posture.

The honorable woman has control of her body, it is presented as a living sacrifice to the Lord (Rom 12:1-2). She refuses to yield her body as an instrument to sin (Rom 6:12-13) and acknowledges that her body belongs to Christ (1 Cor 6:15). Realizing that her body is a temple literally inhabited by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), she chooses to glorify God in her body (1 Cor 6:20). She becomes a student of her body so that she knows how to control it in honor (1 Thess 4:4); she understands the need for accountability to the body of Christ to maintain her purity (Gal 6:1-2; Jas 5:19-20).

Being Prudent

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
-PROV 31:26

Mothers frequently remind their children, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” James 3:2, 6 teaches us that “we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. . . . And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” The principle of prudence– i.e., connoting wisdom and careful consideration of consequences–specifically addresses the use of her tongue. Miriam, Moses’ sister, serves as a graphic illustration of the impact of a sharp, complaining tongue (Num 12:1-15). The entire nation of Israel was delayed for seven days because she chose to use her tongue in an inappropriate manner.

The worthy woman’s speech exhibits good judgment and discretion (Col 4:6). Rather than being too aggressive or domineering, gentleness (Prov 15:1) and compassion characterize her words (Prov 25:1). She possesses the ability to be kind, yet very firm, as well as the ability to maintain confidences (Prov 11:13). Truthfulness is evident in her relationships with others (Eph 4:15), and she realizes that what she meditates upon will emerge in her speech (Ps 19:14; Luke 6:45). Within her family relationships, she refuses to defame her husband’s character and speaks to her children with firmness balanced with kindness and gentleness. Prior to speaking she asks herself questions that insure that the attitude of Proverbs 31:26 (“she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”) will characterize her conversations. She inquires:

– Is it kind?

– Is it necessary?

– Is it true?

– Is it gossip?

– Am I defending my own opinion rather than listening to the individual?

Having implemented these criteria for her speech, the worthy woman chooses to make encouragement a part of her lifestyle because it is a spiritual mandate (Heb 10:25). An act of encouragement inspires others with renewed courage, spirit, and hope. It affirms individuals for who they are rather than what they do. Proverbs 25:11 teaches the value of appropriate words. A myriad of actions can provide encouragement to others, including:

– Bestowing notes and small gifts at unexpected times

– Commenting on desirable character qualities (punctuality, good attitude, tolerance, etc.).

– Calling with specific, encouragement-oriented purposes.

– Affirming a job well done.

– Supporting someone who is hurting.

– Choosing to use confrontation in an appropriate manner (Matt 18:15-19) rather than as a “Christian” way of telling someone off.

The worthy woman cultivates a positive, reassuring attitude, knowing that encouragement does not thrive in a negative atmosphere. She realizes that developing this character quality takes time and does not anticipate repayment (Luke 6:30-31; 1 Tim 6:17-19).

Being Loving

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
PROV 31:28-29

The sense of benevolence that one should possess for another person involves an intense love for others, including one’s husband, children, friends, and relations, plus a steadfast commitment to God. The worthy woman demonstrates a strong liking for others and purposes to activate the Titus 2:3-5 principle of the younger women learning from the older women in her life. She is approachable by others and refuses to be a respecter of persons (Jas 2:1-13).

That the worthy woman first concentrates her domestic efforts on those in her own home is demonstrated by their response to her. Her husband and children spontaneously cheer her
(Prov 31:28-29). Every day when they open their eyes, they rejoice that she belongs to them. She chooses to live a consistent life as a wife and mother.

Having made her home her priority, the worthy woman works creatively with her husband (Amos 3:3; Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1-6). She knows him well enough to respect and honor him (Eph 5:33b), as well as to be his helpmate and friend (Gen 2:18). Training her children well by implementing child-rearing principles based on the Word of God (Deut 6:6-7; 11:18-21; Ps 78:1-4; Prov 22:6; Eph 6:4; Col 3:21; 2 Tim 3:14-17) is the focus of her life while her children are at home Finally, she sets an example for the character qualities that she wishes to instill in the lives of her children, realizing that they will assimilate the behaviors she models (1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1-2).

Fearing God

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
-PROV 31:30

Fearing God denotes a reverential trust in God, including the hatred of evil. Romans 12:9 challenges the worthy woman to “abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” She assimilates a true perspective of values based on the Word of God. The woman embracing the principle of God-fearing will stand in awe and will venerate, worship, and love her Lord with all her heart
(Matt 22:37). The practical application of the Godly lifestyle will include an individual hunger and thirst after God (Ps 42:1-2a), an attitude of submission to God’s will and ways (Jas 4:7), and a consistent evaluation of her spiritual status (1 Cor 11:31-32). She purposes to make spiritual principles a priority in her life (Matt 6:33) and refuses to slump into a tired routine regarding her relationship with her Savior. The joy of the Lord is her strength (Neh 8:10b).

Accepting 1 Corinthians 10 as a warning, the worthy woman acknowledges the traps that the ancient Hebrews fell into regarding their spiritual condition. They craved evil things (v. 6), were idolatrous (v. 7), began practicing immorality (v. 8), became guilty of presumption (v. 9), and were cynical and negative (v. 10). In the midst of God’s best blessings, they became cool, distant, and indifferent. Not suddenly, but slowly the keen edge of enthusiasm became dull. Applying the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, she is careful to learn from the example of the disobedient and indolent Jews in Moses’ time.

The Reward
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
PROV 31:31

The reward of cultivating these eleven principles is presented in Proverbs 31:31 as the worthy woman receives recognition “in the gates,” which refers to the public assembly of people. The worthy woman does not have to brag about herself but rather is praised by those who know her best. The woman who chooses to embrace the principles found in Proverbs 31 is usually rewarded in this life and always in the hereafter. A review of these principles suggests some representative, potential benefits that the worthy woman might anticipate:

Being Virtuous

– An unobstructed relationship with her Heavenly Father (Matt 5:8).

– Blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of her salvation (Ps 24:1-5).

– The assurance that her influence will never die (Prov 31:28; 2 Tim 1:3-7).

Being Trustworthy

– That her husband trusts her (Prov 31:11).

– An honorable reputation (Prov 31:25).

– The confidence that as she walks uprightly, her Heavenly Father will provide grace, glory, and all that is good for her (Ps 84:11).

Being Energetic

– The family benefits from her home business (Prov 31:24).

– Enjoying professional and spiritual stimulation (Prov 27:17).

– Exemption from reaping the fruit of slothfulness (Prov 19:15).


Being Physically Fit

– Enjoying the tasks she undertakes to their fullest potential (Col 3:23).

– That her body is an appropriate dwelling-place for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20).

– Avoiding the type of judgment and denouncement God executed on the women of Judah (Isa 3:16-26).

Being Economical

– Embracing a spiritual attitude toward money and material possessions (1 Tim 6:6-10).

– Experiencing the joy of generosity (2 Cor 9:6-8).

– Perceiving that her purchases are sound choices; no guilt (Prov 31:18).

Being Unselfish

– The joy of giving to others with the right attitude (2 Cor 9:7).

– Being pleasing to the Lord (Prov 19:17).

– Enjoying the fruit of giving to others (Acts 9:36-42).

Being Prepared

– Meeting the design of God’s plan for her life (Jer 17:7-8).

– Being an authentic role model for others (1 Cor 11:1).

– A lack of frustration and regret (Matt 25:21, 23).

Being Honorable

– That her moral integrity allows her to reflect fulfillment in later life, rather than having lived a wasted life filled with remorse and sin (2 Cor 9:6; Gal 6:7-9).

– Behaving in a way that reflects her position as a daughter in God’s royal family (Gen 1:26-27).

– A confidence that her convictions are based upon biblical principles rather than cultural trends (Ps 119:11, 105).

Being Prudent

– That people are willing to confide in her and trust her to retain their confidences (Prov 5:1-2).

– That people will seek and follow her advice (Col 4:6).

– The privilege of encouraging and affirming others (Heb 10:24-25).

Being Loving

– Enjoying a healthy, growing, love relationship with the Lord (Matt 22:37).

– That her closest friends will love, honor, respect, and praise her (Prov 31:28-29).

– Living in such a way that she is an example for the “young women” (Titus 2:3-5),

Fearing God

– Being a positive role model because of her faith (the epistle of James in action).

– Continuing as a faithful servant (Matt 25:21).

– Enjoying the benefits of learning from the experiences of others (1 Cor 10).

Realizing that her motive for cultivating these eleven principles is to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31), to hear her Heavenly Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21), and to cast her rewards at the feet of her King (Rev 4:10-11), the worthy woman pursues the eternal crown with vigor!

A Final Thought

The conviction of this chapter is that original role differentiations in the home can be biblically traced back to the standards in Eden before sin interrupted marital relationships (Gen 2:723). The original, specific roles for male and female were corrupted, not created, by the Fall. Genesis 2:18 reports that God’s final act of creation was the woman, to be a “helper fit for him” (literally, a “helper like man”). John MacArthur states:

When God saw His creation as very good (1:31), He viewed it as being to that point the perfect outcome to His creative plan. However, in observing man’s state as not good, He was commenting on his incompleteness before the end of the sixth day because the woman, Adam’s counterpart, had not yet been created. The words of this verse emphasize man’s need for a companion, a helper, and an equal. He was incomplete without someone to complement him in fulfilling the task of filling, multiplying, and taking dominion over the earth. This points to Adam’s inadequacy, not Eve’s insufficiency (cf. 1 Cor 11:9). Woman was made by God to meet man’s deficiency (cf. 1 Tim. 2:14).

The woman portraying Christian femininity embraces the truth of Genesis 1-2 and Proverbs 31:10-31, behaves in harmony with God’s will, and glorifies God with her mind and life. She distinctly possesses a biblical world-view of her femininity.

This article “Portraying Christian Femininity” was taken from Think Biblically by Patricia A. Ennis and may be used for study and research purposes only.