by Sonia Hulme
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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).
Another passage from the intriguing book of Proverbs. Thank goodness we have moved on from breasts and bosoms! But there’s more female imagery today, which is not surprising, considering the target audience of this ancient piece of writing. Young men, who were being prepared for life in court, who would lead and rule, needed schooling about living well. What better language to use to catch the attention of testosterone-fuelled teenagers than that of young women? Proverbs outlines their two choices – the path of wisdom (portrayed as a wise lady) or the path of foolishness (portrayed as a temptress and adulteress who will lead them astray). The ‘perfect wife’ which ends the book of Proverbs, then, can be seen as the ultimate portrayal of what it means to be wise.
With its male-centred focus, how do we read this passage and embody its truths? If I am not male and not going to rule, what does it say to me? How do I find this precious jewel, this capable and noble ‘wife’ (wisdom), to guide me in my life? For anyone – male or female – Proverbs 31 has a clue in its details. This woman lives well by taking care of the everyday things in her context. They will be different in your 21st-century world, but they are there, all the same. You may not have fields planted out and a husband sitting at the city gate while you make your linen garments, but there are plenty of ‘small things’ in your life, things that need to get done. What are the things you need to take care of, the things no-one else might see except you and God?
Take care of the small stuff, head into your day with Jesus walking beside you, and you are on the way to living wisely and well! When you fail, as you will, let Jesus into those struggles too, and receive his grace to keep on walking.
Lord, I am thankful you do not call me to aspire to be the Proverbs 31 woman but to be my wisest me in my context with the people you have placed around me. Help me live generously and love those around me with the love you have freely passed on to me. And when I need wisdom to live well, help me turn to you, the source of all perfect wisdom from God. Amen.