Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Beyond Proverbs 31: A Word for My Single Sisters.
If you live in or around the theological community that is Evangelical Christianity, you know what I mean when I write of a "Proverbs 31 Woman".
This pithy slogan is based on the idealized woman of the Old Testament book of Proverbs chapter 31 verses 10-31.
This is not just any woman. She is a "wife of noble character" (10), a blessing to her husband (11-12), a caretaker for her family (15, 27), a helper of the poor (20), a hard worker (17), and so on for miles.
Many a Christian sister has been encouraged to imitate the Proverbs 31 woman. And more than one book, Bible study, and sermon has been published on the subject.
And you know what? That's not a bad thing.
As long as it is understood that the book of Proverbs gives us idealizations and general principles of what could be, rather than hard and fast rules of what will or must be, I see no problem with looking at Proverbs 31 as an example for Christians wives and mothers.
However, there is one problem.
Not all Christian women are wives and mothers.
Either by their own choice or otherwise, there are plenty of unmarried, childless women who, through the selective preaching and teaching in some Christian quarters, get the impression that being a mature woman and a good Christian is synonymous with having a family.
While we hear less of crude statements like "a woman's place is in the home", whenever Christian women are exhorted in the church it seems to be in the context of having a husband or children.
This can lead to unmarried Christian women feeling like they are not full participants in their own faith and faith community.
Often they are pestered with questions that assume they want to get married or should get married, or else there must be something wrong with them.
This is harmful, theologically and personally, and needs to stop.
But what can be done about it?
I propose that our talk of the Proverbs 31 woman needs to be tempered with that of the woman of 1 Corinthians 7:34:
"...An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit..."
This simple little statement packs a gigantic punch.
Paul is defining the nature of what it means to exercise single womanhood in Christ: to be utterly devoted to God with all one's being.
Not a freak who needs to hurry up and get married. Not a half-way Christian. Not a rebel against God's created order.
A woman whose heart is completely sold out to God, undivided. If you are in that place, don't feel the need to change. Embrace your current vocation and throw yourself into the love of the Lord.
What greater honor could be bestowed on any woman?
What greater honor could be bestowed on any Christian?