Where generations before used cookbooks or recipe cards, I find all of my recipes — from one-pot pasta with creamy tomato sauce to chewy brown sugar chocolate chip cookies — via my Pinterest app. I do enjoy a good Pinterest pinning spree. How else would I learn kitschy craft projects or plan my dream wedding decor?
But unfortunately, there can also be toxic messages lurking behind Pinterest’s shiny images. My Pinterest feed promotes gorgeous pictures of the ideal home, wedding, and lifestyle… with the suggestion that this idyllic life may be just within reach. It suggests that being a woman means having a Pinterest-perfect home, life, or even kids–just like “all the other women.” And for Christian women, sites like Pinterest add in posts asking us to click on “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming A Proverbs 31 Woman” and learn “How to Be A Proverbs 31 Woman in the Modern World.”
As if women are meant to DIY our way into domestic perfection.
Does Proverbs 31 Sound Exhausting?
For a lot of lovely ladies out there, thinking about Proverbs 31 as a description of the ideal Christian woman feels simultaneously overwhelming and restricting. If you’re like me, it makes you want to avoid the passage altogether.
Yet what the “Proverbs 31 Woman” culture ignores is that this chapter of the Bible is not meant to be a checklist to help women be our best selves. And while life as a stay-at-home mom and caring wife is a valid choice for some, that’s not a calling that all women can or should play in Christ’s Kingdom. What is more, that’s not even what Proverbs 31 is about!
A Song Praising Women of Valor
As a matter of fact, that opening verse of the Proverbs 31 poem “a virtuous woman who can find?” is perhaps better translated, “A woman of valor who can find?” The writer and blogger Rachel Held Evans writes about her discovery of this valorous Proverbs 31 woman. Evans says that this chapter is a poem. A poem praising the “woman of noble character,” the embodiment of all that is wise. Far from serving as a “job description” of demands for women, Proverbs 31 is actually a song of joy praising women who work hard, give generously, and love those around them. Look at what it says:
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard…she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” — Excerpts from Proverbs 31:10-25
Living as a “woman of valor” isn’t about achieving a checklist at all because it’s not about what you do. Rather, it’s about how you do it. In other words, being a woman of valor is faithfully living out your gifts, talents, and passions. For the good of those around you. Faithfulness is a call that applies to women who are homeschooling moms, but also to women who are doctors or CEOs, flight attendants or elementary school teachers.
Pinterest’s False Depiction of A Proverbs 31 Woman
There are Pinterest posts listing out the qualities of a “Proverbs 31” woman. Some of them include such traits as “Health,” “Homemaking,” “Beauty,” and “Marriage.” But to put it bluntly, these posts misinterpret the biblical text. And they totally miss the point.
The Proverbs 31 poem of praise is for the woman of valor who faithfully loves God and others where she is. This faithfulness is possible for women who lose their health due to cancer or illness. This faithfulness is possible for women who work in business or government to support their families. It’s possible for women who do not appear beautiful to anyone around them. It’s possible for women who remain single their whole lives. And it’s possible for the women worldwide who spend their lives working towards financial security, without time to put on mascara.
As writer Sarah Bessey puts it, “Women are also called to put on the armor of God, to be strong and courageous, and to love one another, putting each other first in all ways. Those directions, ideas, values, and ways we are called to bring the Kingdom of God are for women and men.” In reality, this is a call that transcends culture, social standing, occupation, physical appearance, marital status, and anything else. And it affirms the value and dignity of all women.
Sing A Song of Praise to the Brave Women in Your Life
My blessing today is for any woman reading this. I hope that you read Proverbs 31 and hear it for what it is. A poem of affirmation and praise for who you are as a person made in God’s image. Not a list of demands or ways you do not measure up. Instead, sing a song of thankfulness for how your gifts and passions equip you to make a difference for those around you. Go forth and love well.
You can make an eternal difference today by sponsoring a child in poverty. Begin your relationship with a precious child somewhere in the world or learn more at our Sponsor a Child page!
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