10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates. – Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV
It would seem that King Lemuel had a mother whose praises he was eager to sing. These closing verses of chapter 31 are a testimony to his mother’s character and the impact she had made on his life. For Lemuel, the woman who had raised him and inculcated words of wisdom into his life became the model for what it means to be a godly mother and wife.
Lemuel had high standards when it came to looking for a wife. And his mother had warned him not to waste his time and energy pursuing women whose lack of moral integrity and character would only end up damaging his reputation and his reign. As a king, Lemuel would have had no shortage of potential marriage candidates. There would have been an endless supply of young ladies eager to win the attention of the king and secure themselves a permanent place by his side as queen. So, as Lemuel wrestled with the weight of finding a suitable mate, he was forced to admit:
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies. – Proverbs 31:2 NLT
Lemuel bemoans the fact that finding a good wife is difficult work but well worth the effort. As he considers his own mother’s life and legacy, he recognizes the value of setting a high standard and refusing to settle for less.
We all know how difficult it can be to find the “right” person to spend the rest of your life with. But Lemuel’s advice is to take your time and wait until you discover someone whose life is marked by godly characteristics that are of surpassing value and worth. King Lemuel poses a wonderful question when he asks, “Who can find a wife of noble character?” He compares the search for such a woman to the quest for a priceless jewel. She is rare and extremely valuable, and well worth searching and waiting for.
Lemuel goes on to list the kinds of qualities that mark the virtuous woman, and it is an extensive and impressive list. She will be trustworthy, faithful, hardworking, industrious, diligent, entrepreneurial, energetic, strong, caring, compassionate, wise, and godly. And those qualities will not only make her an excellent wife, but an influential mother, friend, and neighbor.
She will fear God and love her family. But what’s interesting is that King Lemuel spends no time describing her looks. In fact, he states that “charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last” (Proverbs 31:30 NLT). But then as now, culture puts a high priority on charm and beauty. Looks are important, and Lemuel is not dismissing the importance of physical attraction. He is simply stating that beauty can be skin deep and, when looking for a wife, you want to look beneath the surface.
To be honest, I was first attracted to my wife because of her looks, but then I quickly discovered her charm. As I spent more with her, I realized there was more to her beauty than had first met my eye. I was fortunate to discover that she was also a “woman who fears the Lord” (Proverbs 31:30 NLT).
One of the greatest desires of any parent is for their son to find a woman whose life will be characterized by the qualities found in these verses. And for Christian parents, one of the most important characteristics we pray for in our future daughter-in-laws is that they fear the Lord. We long for our son to find a woman who loves, respects, and reverences God and who displays a steady and growing dependence upon Him.
Lemuel’s concept of an ideal wife is a woman who answers to God. She is committed to living for God. She is learning to rest in God. And what father would not want his son to find a woman like that. Let’s face it, there are many beautiful, charming women in the world, but who can find a woman of noble character? Those kinds of women are few and far between. They are rare and priceless. They are limited to those who have given their lives to Christ and who are willing to allow Him to so radically change their hearts that they become priceless treasures in His hands. They are the ones who have allowed God to transform their lives in such a way that their inner beauty far surpasses their physical looks. Beauty fades but character lasts.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. – Proverbs 31:30 NLT
According to Lemuel, what makes a woman truly attractive is the godly character that far surpasses any outward charm they may possess. The apostle Peter describes it as a “beauty that comes from within.” And he encourages godly women to place a higher priority on cultivating their inner character than they do on enhancing their outer beauty
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. – 1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT
That kind of woman will greatly enrich any man’s life, and he will find she is well worth searching and waiting for. He will learn that she is of extreme value and deserves a husband who is also a man of noble, moral, and upright character. He will be motivated to display a character that is in keeping with hers. His love for and fear of God will mirror that of his wife. And sadly, those kinds of marriages seem to be few and far between. But they’re worth praying and waiting for.
In a society obsessed with outer beauty, it pays to be reminded that God looks at the heart. He is not impressed with externals. He does not measure our value based on our good looks or outer attractiveness. God is all about inner character. He sees what others too often fail to see and what most of us even refuse to look for. In this famous Proverb, King Lemuel describes a most impressive woman. She is industrious, a successful businesswoman, a loving mother, a highly disciplined worker, a caring friend, and a dedicated wife. In fact, this woman is almost too good to be true. But I don’t think the point of this Proverb is to hold up this woman as a model for all women to follow. Lemuel is simply reminding us that character counts.
It is what is on the inside that gives our lives value. This woman’s industry and hard work are laudable, but they are not the point. Hard work can simply become another form of idol worship, leading to workaholism and self-sufficiency. While King Lemuel describes this woman as dressing in fine linen and purple gowns, he says, “She is clothed with dignity and strength” (Proverbs 31:25 NLT).
Her inner character was outwardly visible by virtue of the way she lived her life. She worked hard out of love for her family, rather than love of self. She was industrious because she cared for others more than she cared for herself. This woman feared God. She had a reverence for God that drove her actions and determined her attitude about everything. Verse 10 describes her as “virtuous.” That word really has to do with inner strength. She was trustworthy, good, hard-working, discerning, compassionate, giving, humble, wise, kind, loving, and worthy of praise from both her children and her husband. Why? Because she had an inner beauty that was far more than skin deep. It was the byproduct of time spent with God.
If some of us, both men and women, spent more time in the Word and less time in the gym or in front of the mirror, we might exhibit more of the character qualities this woman possessed. If we cared more about the condition of our souls than we did about our bodies, we would be far more attractive to the world around us.
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman [or man] who lives in the Fear-of-GOD. – Proverbs 31:30 MSG
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.