GUEST POST: By Warren Baldwin
is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30
The Proverbs 31 poem, which extolls the superlative qualities of the virtuous woman, begins with a question: “A wife of noble character who can find?” The poem answers the question: a husband fortunate enough to marry a woman who fears the Lord, devotes herself to the daily affairs of a household, nurtures her children, and brings honor to her husband.
The wife of noble character is found among the women we go to church with, bump into at the grocery store and cheer with at Little League games. The wife of noble character is my mother, my mother-in-law, and the woman I have celebrated life with for twenty-nine years.
The narrator of Proverbs 31 invests nineteen verses extolling the virtues of the Noble Wife. The praise reaches its crescendo in verses 29 and 30 when her husband offers his feelings about his beloved: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is meaningless, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Charm refers to the social and personal skills a woman can use to attract the attention of a man. Beauty refers to her physical allurement. Charm and beauty can be misused by a woman with devious intentions: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Proverbs 11:22). The Sage is aware of this danger and spends considerable effort alerting young men to it (Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:1-14; 6:23-35; and 7).
But, charm and beauty are neutral qualities, their merits or demerits to be determined by how they are employed. Nothing is more alluring to a spiritual young man than a woman of virtue who is also both appropriately charming and physically beautiful. Her presence is a lightening strike to his heart, emboldening him to approach her and pursue first a conversation, then a life together. Her charm and beauty enrich their romance and marital experience.
But the wise husband knows the truly enduring qualities of his wife are not the externals of charm and beauty. Charm can suffer from years of pain and disappointment; physical health and attractiveness fades for all of us. What endures are the internal qualities of godliness: love, devoted service to family, care for strangers, fairness to all, fear of the Lord.
Proverbs opens with a profound statement about the essence of our relationship with God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge …” (Proverbs 1:7). Everything else that follows in the book – the common sense, practical suggestions, and insights for life – are ultimately as shallow as charm and fleeting as beauty unless they are built upon the key foundational principle of fear of God. It is fear of the Lord that enables relationship with him and allows our growth in wisdom and virtue.
The Noble Wife has spent a lifetime developing her relationship with God and her family. Through wisdom she has built her house (Proverbs 14:1). Her charm and beauty are not devilishly employed to derail the morals and lives of young men. Rather, they are used to bring enjoyment to the life she shares with her husband. And though the physical beauty of her youth will fade with time, the love of her devoted husband will not, and he will rejoice in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18). And, in inexplicable ways, her charm and beauty will not fade to him, but will take on new depth and meaning.
How fitting that this book which opened with a call to fear the Lord ends with praise for one who does. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. She shall be praised by her family in her home, her friends at the city gate, and by God in the final gathering: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Note: Thank you very much, D.J., for allowing me to submit two articles for this great series. All the posts have been very informative and the other writers have done an excellent job. I am honored to have been a part of it.
Warren is a minister in Kansas. He and his wife have three children, two in graduate school and one in high school as a senior. They enjoy sports and traveling together. Warren’s book on Proverbs, “Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs,” is available at www.warrentbaldwin.com. You can read more insights from Warren on his blog at Family Fountain.