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Proverbs 31: Part 2 of 2 "Give Her of the Fruit of Her Hands"

  • Ina Manly Painter,
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"Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies"

(Pr. 31: 10, NKJ)

We know this woman. She is the epitome of all our good intentions. As Christian women we should be careful not to approach this chapter with an attitude that this virtuous woman is a picture of ourselves. Neither should our familiarity keep us from reexamining these Scriptures. Upon closer study, we see what the Scripture does not emphasize about this woman and yet her godly example "raises the bar" for every woman everywhere.

The Scripture does not emphasize the prayer life of the virtuous woman, although Christ's admonition to all of us is untiring prayer (Lk. 18:1). We do not read that she rises early to have a "quiet time" before her family awakens, although we read that the Christian should focus upon the Savior early in the day and early in life (Ps. 63:1). The Scripture does not say she shares the gospel or seeks to win souls, although Christians are encouraged to turn sinners from the error of their ways (Jas. 5:20).

We know the woman of Proverbs 31 is virtuous and fears God, which surely embodies prayer, study of God's Word, and a heart toward the eternal welfare of others. In comparison to other women, and their good works, she excels them all (Pr. 31:29). Why did God not include these righteous activities? Perhaps it is because He would have us focus on the overall purpose of the covenant family. Perhaps it is because prayer, Bible study, and winning souls epitomize the height of our Christian duties and perfection. We are quick to teach Bible studies while our homes are in filthy shambles. We countenance the daily needs of our husbands and children with repulsion in our voices. We construct our own "good works," justifying our sins of omission, that we may appear lowly. And what is the correlation between our rebellious hearts and the lack of respect society has toward our home keeping?

The first focus of marriage is man and wife in covenant with God, taking dominion, (Gen. 1:28) seeking the kingdom of God first (Mt. 6:33). While children are important, they do not take precedent over the kingdom of God. The main focus of the woman is to be a helper to her husband. Marriage is to serve God, thus He focuses our attention in Proverbs 31: 10-31 to the woman's virtuous life, her fear of God, and her good works.

We sense a scarcity of this certain kind of woman — a virtuous woman. Her value outweighs the costly adorning of external things — things that are highly valuable and difficult to attain. Did Solomon find a virtuous woman among his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (1 Kin. 11:3)? Lemuel's mother advises him to seek virtue, that hidden quality of the heart not measured by outward beauty and a successful resume.

The role of the virtuous woman is to be understood as a helper, not in an autonomous, liberated sense, as rival to her husband's duties to protect, provide, and guide the home in priestly duties. While she is Spirit-filled, she is not a spiritual hermit. She does not sanctimoniously elevate herself above her husband, under the guise of superior piety and dedication to God. She does not shrink back that she may be pulled forward, appearing humble, while she sharpens her deceptive abilities to control. She is neither a weak nor silly woman, being led astray by every wind of doctrine, going from Bible study to Bible study, but never able to come to the knowledge and applicability of the truth (2 Tim: 3:7). She is not defiant to God's established order and justice for the family and the government of society. She does not neglect her domestic duties to respond to social pressures or promote personal self-esteem. She is not a charming manipulator gouging out a wide place for her feet to stand. Her beauty is found in her faithfulness as a helper, being the crown of her husband, causing him no shame. She has a meek and quiet spirit, tends to her own domain, is blessed by her children, and praised by her husband (Pr. 31:28).

In careful reading, we note the good works of this woman and her heart toward obedience. She is not a "super woman" nor is she perfect, yet God in His grace is pleased to accept her works and reward her faith. Her good works are constant and unselfish. We see both the hidden character of her heart and the visible evidence of her hands. Does she sin? Yes, of course. She is a woman of like passions as we are, though it did not please God to show us her sins or her weaknesses. If we were having fellowship with this woman over coffee, we might lean forward in an humble voice and ask, "How do you burn the candle at both ends and accomplish all that you do?" I imagine she would smile and remark that everything she accomplishes is only that which is her duty (Lk. 17:10).

What is the Scriptural meaning of "good works"? Aren't all "works" carried out by Christians accepted as "good works" before God? No, only certain "works" meet the scriptural standard. This doctrine is best summarized in the first four paragraphs of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 15.

1."Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention. 2. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto; that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end eternal life. 3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. 4. They, who in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.1

God is gracious to specify good works, for our understanding, so that we will not read Proverbs 31 and continue validating our depraved behavior. We need this scriptural picture, as well as constant prayerful meditation, else we default to our keen ability to manipulate our own "good works."

Her husband's authority stands above hers. She is a companion, a helper. She accepts the role God has given her and is content to maintain her own responsibilities. She is self-controlled in her spirit and speaks kindness with wisdom. She is a constant delight to her husband and does not strive to be independent of his desires. She refrains from speaking behind his back, complaining about his habits that she cannot get him to change. She does not insinuate her abilities to do better than he, wishing she were out from under his headship. She is happy in her duty and does not look elsewhere for a better plight in life. "The heart of the husband safely trusts her" (Pr. 31: 11 NKJ). He has found her faithful to the real issues of his heart, worthy of his trust, so that he has no need of dishonest gain.

"She does him good and not evil all the days of her life" (Pr. 31: 12 NKJ). Even as a little girl she was doing him good, learning skills that would help her be a good wife, saving herself for their intimacy. Through their married years she does only that which is good for him and even after their life together has ended, she will continue to do him good as long as there is life within her (Pr. 31: 12 AMP).

Because she is under the authority of her husband the virtuous woman is no less intelligent or capable. She is a woman of integrity and competence. She reaches out to the poor and needy. She is not fearful of the future or the change of seasons in her life. "Strength and honor are her clothing" (Pr. 31:25). She is astute in business management, industrious and practical. She is not double-minded, demanding her right to a bargain at the expense of others. She does not pronounce the object of her delight to be worthless, in order that she may procure a "deal," then go her way boasting of her advantage (Pr. 20:14).

Her presentation of herself is true. She does not give mixed messages to delude others who are suspect of her real intentions. She is not driven by the passion for possessions. She does not specialize in tearing down her home, little by little, with her hands (Pr. 14:1) .

This woman is surely not the "back to dirt" woman who strives to achieve sanctification by pietistic platitudes, motley clothing and general ugliness. While she may have Sarai's beauty (Gen. 12:11), she is neither consumed with being a Barbie-doll, trophy woman in fashion or figure, nor a homely, barefoot, pregnant cave woman.

One cannot help but note that, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land" in the public place of honor and authority. (Pr. 31:23 NKJ). Scripture does not say that the woman ever sits there. Only her works, not her presence, is known there. "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates" (Pr. 31:31). Who is it that gives a defense against her enemies? It is their children, the children of the covenant who speak within the gates, contending against evil.

What is her reward? She is blessed by her children and her husband praises her (Pr. 31:28). Praise? Only praise? Does he not help with the dishes? What about sending flowers or giving her a night out? We would appreciate that more than praise, unless our focus is truly upon God and we see Him in everything, knowing that it is He who has found us worthy to be praised.

What shall we say of the woman to whom God has given the gift of singleness? Is she less of a woman because she does not have a husband or children? Were it not for our natures to always desire what we do not have we would more readily accept God's blessed gifts as He gives them.

The woman who is not married, or not yet married, is under the authority of her parents, her elders. Her focus is the same, yet not as intimate. Because of this she must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of self-pity and self-indulgence. She must look to Christ to fulfill all her needs and rely upon Him. She must avoid making herself miserable by peering out the window of her soul, at the couples in the marketplace, imagining they have a perfect relationship.

The single woman's first duty is the same as the married woman — seeking first the kingdom of God, reconciling all things under the dominion of her King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Her good works are to be to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. This virtuous woman shall also be praised and shall receive of the fruit of her hands.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord,
she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
(Pr. 31:30,31, NKJ)


1. G. I, Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1964), p.117.

  • Ina Manly Painter

Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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