Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our reading from Proverbs 31:10-31 is a tall order. Who can find an excellent wife? If she has to fulfill all of these qualities, all the time, the answer is that nobody can find an excellent wife. In fact, there is not going to be any one person who is able to keep up this kind of a life. Is it worthy? Certainly. Should a woman strive to model her life after this woman? No doubt about it. But will that woman face failure? Day after day, yes.
This is a precious wife indeed. She is worth more than many jewels.
Now many men, faced with this picture, would quickly say, "Just give me the money and I'll keep my own wife, even if she is inferior." In saying this I say nothing against my wife, nor do I criticize the many excellent wives I have known over the years. But if I have a wife who isn't able to run a successful business, who doesn't bring wealth, who doesn't create fine specialty fabrics from raw materials, who doesn't supervise a household of servants, and who actually has to sleep in sometimes, that's fine. I still love her dearly. I wouldn't mind having the jewels instead.
Normally I don't go in for allegorical interpretations of Scripture all that much. I think they can be dangerous. However, I don't see any way of dealing with this passage other than either allegorizing it or using it as bludgeon for the less than perfectly industrious and gifted woman. And I really want to avoid using the Scripture as a club to beat anyone.
In the New Testament quite plainly, and slightly less obviously in the Old Testament, we see God pictured as the husband of Israel, or the husband of the Church. What light does this shed on Proverbs 31? If we look at it in that context, we see that the Proverbs 31 woman is all of God's people, working together.
As a collective, we are able to do all the things the Proverbs 31 woman does. Not all of us can do all of the work. Sometimes we are strong and sometimes not. My talent and ability runs out, but by God's grace your talent and ability pick up there, or we overlap a little bit. What's the result? God is glorified and the whole family, as the one in the text, is blessed, prosperous, respected, and has no fear of the future.
Who can find an excellent wife? God has found an excellent wife, in the Church. We all get to contribute to this life of prosperity, joy, and delight.
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