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Stop Obsessing About the Proverbs 31 Woman

Why viewing the Proverbs 31 woman as the ideal is missing the point.

I see this phrase violently clinging to many social media bios of young, (typically) single Christians: “I want to be/I am looking for a Proverbs 31 woman.” Every time I read this, something inside me cringes.

To preface things: I believe in the Bible. I love it, I read it and I actively try to do what it says.

Now, in case you need a recap, this hypothetical woman in Proverbs 31 is skillful in a lot of different things (If you're not familiar with the passage, you can read it here). Scratch that—she’s skillful in everything. According to the chapter, she wakes up super early, has great biceps, buys property, wears a lot of purple, cares for her kids, cares for the poor, keeps her home warm at night and doesn’t eat carbs.

It sounds like this woman really has figured out how to have it all.

Maybe you, like me, read this passage and think to yourself well sheesh. Is every woman supposed to try and fit this mold?

Maybe you, like me, read this passage and think to yourself well sheesh. Is every woman supposed to try and fit this mold? And how would that be possible if every woman is different? What if she can’t sew or cook or hires a nanny for her kids during the week? What if she never even gets married? Does that mean she’s not living up to her God-given potential as a female? Does that mean she’s living in sin?

And what if you don’t want to be a Proverbs 31 woman?

If you have the same frustrations I do, here are some things that may help you out:

The Proverbs 31 Woman is Not a Real Woman.

Some scholars have speculated that the Proverbs 31 woman is not one woman, but rather a conglomeration of admirable attributes of several different women.

Still others say that she’s not really a woman at all, but rather a personification of wisdom. If you’ve read the whole book of Proverbs, you’ll realize that wisdom is consistently referred to as “she.” As the final chapter, the analogy of a woman is used to depict a tangible example of wisdom in action.

This Chapter is Targeting Men, Not Women.

If you notice, the only instruction in the chapter is given to men in the last verse, “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Rachel Held Evans writes that in her research for her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, she learned that in Jewish culture, men memorize this chapter as a song of praise to the women in their lives.

In Jewish culture, men memorize this chapter as a song of praise to the women in their lives. But in Western culture, it is instead often prescribed to women as a task list to fulfill.

But in Western culture, it is instead often prescribed to women as a task list to fulfill.

Our Standard is Not Found in a Person, it’s Found in Jesus.

Think of Ruth the pagan or Rahab the prostitute. There was also Deborah the judge and Esther the queen. Scripture portrays all different kinds of women, many of whom we can relate to. But they do have a couple of things in common, and one of them is that they operated in wisdom. They did what God told them to do, without trying to change who they were.

Whether you’re male or female, you can use Proverbs 31 as a reference point to see not the exact person you should be, but what type of person—someone who takes wisdom and uses it. Women and men can both learn from this chapter. Proverbs 31 is directed towards Solomon’s son, after all.

So if you’ve read this in the past as a standard you would never be able to live up to, you can take a deep breath. This is going to sound really cliché, but Jesus loves you. He made you just the way you are—and no matter what that looks like, it’s enough. Fortunately for all of us, wisdom works for everyone.

Top Comments

Jedidiah Maynes


Jedidiah Maynes commented…

Technically speaking, this passage is talking about a woman who's already married. So if single men are basing their search for a woman based on this passage, it means you would need to find a mom who already has kids.
I've always believed this passage eludes to the potential of who a wise woman of God can be, not who she is now.
Men should aspire to help their wives/fiances fall more and more into the grace of God; they should not nag her to reach an unrealistic level of expectation.

Brent Brewster


Brent Brewster commented…

Why is it folks want to pretend you have to be on one side or the other? Either Jesus loves you as you are and accept that (and as a result can be happy as you knowingly sin and become a tolerant sinner instead of a loving disciple.)
OR you think it's all about rules, you are heartless and uncaring and only want to live by a list of do's and don't to keep score and see who you are better than.
Jesus loves us as we are, and calls us to be as He was/is. It is not a either/or. His commands still apply. All of them. So does the other stuff.
The Prov 31 woman should be a goal for any woman. Why is that too much? She is no Jesus. Being like Jesus is much harder than the Prov 31 woman.
Jesus is our standard. He tells us to strive to be like Him. Not our made up versions, where we pick the 3 verses we like He said and imagine Him as we wish He were, but the real Jesus, the One that turned over tables. called false teachers snakes, and never pretended loving someone means excusing their sin, Jesus always, always called you out on your sin and made it clear, if you are going to follow Him, nothing, not your money, your dead father, your living family, nothing comes between you and Him. Jesus is 1st or you are not following Him. Read it.
So let's stop pretending Jesus is a teddy bear, He loves us, He died for us, He bore our sin, we were guilty, deserving to die, He took our place. But He is not that push over guy you get to take advantage of. He is jealous, He is angry at our sin, and with us at times.
Accepting that Jesus loves us also comes with accepting He is Lord. We don't get a say. Our opinions don't matter. Sin is still sin. Love means correction, instruction, rebuke at times.
So sorry, if the Prov 31 woman is too much for us to handle, maybe we should rethink our lives, because the cost to actually follow Jesus is much higher than the cost to be like this classy lady.


Christopher Hansen


Christopher Hansen commented…

This is just not true. I know Proverbs 31 women. All of them are home school parents with wonderful Christ loving kids who know thier Bibles very well, and happy husbands who praise them continuously.

Brandt Scott


Brandt Scott commented…

Proverbs 31 is not about a woman

The Hebrew word Chayll is used in the bible for warring men who decapitate their enemies. This Proverb is about the warring Bride of Christ, the Church.

Vanessa Tatenda Gambanga


Vanessa Tatenda Gambanga commented…

Thank you for this interesting article, I strongly agree with your views because I have often wondered about this woman. I do strive to be the best I can be diligent, hardworking, prudent etc. However at the end of the day, women are different, I once heard Joyce Meyer speak about being yourself and how she is not a homely woman and at some point struggled to be but God showed her that God created her to be herself. I am not an all rounder either but I pray daily that I walk in wisdom. To those who can emulate her 'the Proverbs 31 woman' good for you.

Betta Yetta


Betta Yetta commented…

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her and yet is considered to be a saint. There is nothing wrong with the Proverbs 31 woman being the female's potential goal.

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