A woman who is well-loved radiates enduring beauty. I heard this wise statement many years ago at a marriage conference, and it's stuck with me ever since. I've seen this true in my own wife.
When I love her in an unselfish way, it's reflected in her appearance and manner. She's still a beautiful woman after enduring more than four decades of marriage to me. And that's according to the observation of others.
Beauty that's only skin-deep—physical beauty— fades over time, and can mask a person's true character. But a woman with a deep, inner beauty retains this beauty regardless of her age.
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. [vss 10-12]
Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. [vss 23-27]
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise. [vss 28-31]
(Proverbs 31:10-23 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 31]
Key phrase— Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.
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What is said about this wife? What is the key element of her value?
What are we told about her husband, and how does this reflect upon the wife?
What are other qualities that describe this wife? What does her husband say about her?
How do the thoughts in the last verses connect with the earlier verses (10-12)?
This last section of the Book of Proverbs (Prov 31:10-23) is often titled, The Virtuous Woman. It's not the description of one woman, but an ideal. Countless women have felt pangs of guilt when husbands, or other well-intentioned teachers, encourage them to be like this ideal model.
But this is not intended as a model for women to live up to, but a guide for men. The intent is to advise men to seek a wife of strong character (verse 10), rather than for her charm and beauty.
It is written as an alphabetical acrostic, and reflects the virtues of godly wisdom, as in earlier chapters of Proverbs. These are indeed virtuous characteristics, but it is unrealistic to challenge women to live up to them. Rather, it is a reminder of the value of godly wisdom, and an exhortation for men to choose a wife based on her character, not her appearance.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions
What do you think an ideal woman and wife would be like? What do you base this on?
Why do you think our culture puts so much emphasis on a person's outward appearance?
What do you value in a person? What is most important to you about your own identity?
How do you keep yourself from trying to live up to unrealistic expectations?