The final touches on Proverb 31’s portrait of the noble woman are an indicative and an imperative.
Here’s the indicative:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (verse 30).
We live in a visual culture. Everyday, our eyes fall on countless advertisements that were designed to make us lust. I suppose you’ve never thought of advertising that way, but that’s its purpose, isn’t it? To stoke our desire to possess something or someone as the fulfillment of our desires.
If advertising were merely information, commercials would tell us the nutritional value and caloric content of restaurant food being advertised. They wouldn’t show us a happy group of friends munching on hot wings and drinking beer. If it wanted to communicate facts, it would tell us the price of the items rather than putting them on the perfect bodies of young male and female models. Advertising is not about facts, however; it’s about fantasy.
Unfortunately, few humans are as susceptible to fantasy as young males, the readers for whom the Book of Proverbs was written. Young men need to be taught that how someone looks isn’t as important as how a person acts, that charm isn’t as important as character, and that beauty isn’t as important as brains. Even more unfortunately, just about every advertisement in our culture teaches these impressionable young men the exact opposite.
Reading and then heeding the wisdom of Proverbs is thus a countercultural act. Other than the decision to follow Jesus Christ, the single most important decision a person will make is whom he marries. From its opening chapter to its ending one, Proverbs gives one piece of advice. Look for a wife who has a vital relationship with God, for out of that relationship flows wisdom, character, and the truly good life (Prov. 1:7, 9:10, 31:30). The same is true, of course, when a woman looks for a husband.
Here’s the imperative.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate (verse 31).
If the indicative statement that fear of the Lord is more important than charm or beauty, then the obvious imperative is to praise these qualities and seek a spouse who embodies them.
Where is this to be done? At the city gate. In the ancient world, the city gate was Main Street, Wall Street, Broadway, and Pennsylvania Avenue all rolled into one. It was the intersection of the neighborhood, business, entertainment, and politics. The city gate of modern culture praises women of charm and beauty. It should praise women of character, brains, hard work, and success instead.
Moms and dads, talk to your sons. Make sure they understand the importance of choosing a wife wisely. And talk to your daughters. Make sure they understand the importance of being a woman of character. Everything in our culture wants our young men and women to settle for cheap substitutes and false fantasies. God’s plan for us is much better.