14She is like a sailing ship
that brings food
from across the sea.
15She gets up before daylight
to prepare food for her family
and for her servants.
16She knows how to buy land
and how to plant a vineyard,
17and she always works hard.
What makes a person – a woman, a man – good and noble is their character, not what they do or how they look or who they know. As Jesus noted, we must start with our hearts if we want to be good (Matt 23:25–26).
Proverbs 31 is a long list of examples of fruits that a good wife bears. Just as a good and healthy apple tree bears juicy red or green apples – good fruit – so too does a wife with good character bear many of the fruits that are exemplified in this chapter.
Women, it is easy to feel overwhelmed looking at this list. Don’t be. Focus on the inside, and God will produce good works in you. As apples grow in many different colors, so too do good works abound in many different ways.
Notice how the writer of Proverbs weaves examples from both upper class and lower class situations. A wealthy woman who had servants (v 15) and engaged in trade (v 18) was not above menial labour.
For example, in verse 16, the fruit of a good woman is her ability to engage in land purchases but also to plant a new vineyard, which demands physical strength. Physical labour is suggested also in verse 17.
The picture given here is of an ideal. In reality, no one woman can do it all. Be the woman of good character, and whatever life circumstances you find yourself in, God will direct your ways and you will produce good fruit that will honour yourself, your family, and the Lord.
Father God, you are the one who hears me and delivers me from all my fears. Please take away my insecurities about who I am and the choices I make. Lead me to be of good character that I might demonstrate your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Douglas & Noël Estes
Douglas Estes is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology and director of the DMin Program at South University—Columbia. Prior to this he was a pastor for 16 years. He has written or edited six books and contributes to a variety of publications including Bible Study Magazine and Christianity Today. His wife Noël was a Marriage and Family Therapist, before making a career of raising their four children and becoming a DMin student. Some recent publications include: Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2017) and, as co-editor, How John Works (SBL Press, 2016). Also: "The Exoplanets Declare the Glory of God" (Christianity Today, March 2016).