Proverbs 31: Woman of Action

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There is a great fear among women that we are being under-appreciated. It’s not that we women want all the power; we just want credit for sharing it! In Amanda Mortus’s “To Be Used or Appreciated?”, she laments how tired a Proverbs 31 woman seems, and wishes more of those holy verses spoke intimately of her heart and character.

“Yes, she does all these things, but who is she?” implores Ms. Mortus.

Two Sundays ago, we heard “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (James 2:14). The September 2012 issue of The Magnificat focuses specifically on work as the blessing of the month, and features a passage from Blessed John Paul II:

“Work is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it… Work is a good thing for man – a good thing for his humanity – because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed in a sense becomes ‘more of a human being.’ (Laborem Exercens #9)

The Proverbs 31 woman may be tired, and she is also satisfied. She has “strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come” (Prv 31:25), which directly correlates to all the mentioned work she does. And why is that? Because she has joy in serving others; she “works with willing hands” (Prv 31:13).

She is an ordinary woman who respects her husband and has his utmost trust, loves and is celebrated by her family, whom takes responsibility for the running of her household, and knows where she can be of use. She may have worries, but she “does not eat the bread of idleness” (Prv 31:27).

Women have the amazing opportunity to share their gifts and talents with their family and in their community. Whatever a woman’s role, may she speak out of “her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prv 31:26).

In contrast to Ms. Mortus’s speculation, these verses are not so outwardly focused but rather inward; her character is shown through her actions. It is a classic “faith with works” collaboration. Without a woman’s love, her actions would not yield laudable results. Without a woman’s actions, her love would grown barren.

As St. Paul wrote, “We urge you, brothers, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instruct you” (1 Thes 4:10-11). This is the essence of such a virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 and is not meant as a disheartening load, but an encouraging example.

This is the beauty of a Proverbs 31 woman: she gets the job done. She doesn’t complain or seek recognition for her deeds; she does what is necessary out of love and she moves around from her flax to the fields to the merchants to her family. We are shown her character – she has discipline, patience and perseverance – and her heart: she seeks no reward outside God’s provisions. She laughs at the future because she is content today.

How many of us can claim such inner peace?

J.R. Baldwin

J.R. Baldwin

J.R. Baldwin is the Editor-in-chief at Ignitum Today. A former statehouse reporter, she teaches history for a classical school and writes for The Imaginative Conservative. She blogs at The Corner With A View, and tweets from @thejulieview. A Midwesterner by birth, she lives out East with her husband and bebes.

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5 thoughts on “Proverbs 31: Woman of Action”

  1. Avatar

    Great post, Julie! You make a great point about her character being shown through her actions. The trick, then, is to, in some sense, read between the lines to better understand the character behind the actions. All too often people read Proverbs 31 and get bogged down (as I have) by the list of things to do instead of realizing who the woman behind the actions is. Thanks for this post!

  2. Avatar

    I started LE a few weeks ago and need to start reading it again. I think I will take your quote as a nudge from my angel guardian.

    I think you make a good point and reflects Christ’s words about man, it is what goes in that defiles him. This is a very good evangelizing point to our culture that has no hope.

    1. Avatar

      I don’t disagree that she is the idealized woman, but I think back to a JP2 quote: “Even in Ordinary Times, we are not ordinary.”

      We are all ordinary people in the sense that we are each human beings working towards holiness. I believe this woman described in Proverbs 31 is as well – but she goes beyond the ordinary. She goes beyond what is required of her, which is what makes her so extraordinary. If we Catholics only followed the five precepts of the Church, but we did not have the love in our hearts to motivate us to continuously do good unto others, what would be the point of accepting Jesus’ love in the Eucharist if we were not so giving of ourselves?

      I think being cheerful while being busy is the mark of contentment, not perfection. She might be busy but she also (probably) makes mistakes. Those are not dwelt upon, though, because of her efforts and her attitude and her love.

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