A Woman of Valor
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10 ESV
What image comes to mind when you think of a woman of valor? Perhaps you envision Arwen of Rivendell, rescuing Frodo from the vicious grasp of the ringwraiths. Or maybe you envision Katniss Everdeen, fighting against a corrupt government with a bow and arrow. Or possibly you think of courageous women whose names have been written in church history – Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, or Betty Stam – who have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel among the nations.
But would you imagine a wife and mother, serving her family in the unseen places of her home, faithfully and lovingly before the Lord? Would you imagine yourself?
An Excellent Wife – A Woman of Valor
In order to best understand this beautiful verse, let’s start with a little vocabulary study. The word from which we derive ‘excellent’ is the Hebrew word chayil. Chayil is a word full of meaning. In order to better understand this word, let’s take a look at how Dr. James Strong, a Greek and Hebrew scholar of the late 1800s, defined this word:
The word used to describe this woman, chayil, was translated as ‘army’ 56 times in the King James Version (KJV), and ‘man of valor’ 37 times in the (KJV). Therefore, when this verse refers to this woman as ‘excellent’, it references her strength and valor.
A Woman of Valor + The Source of Her Strength
As I read the first part of this verse, I see that this woman of valor is quite rare. As I read this chapter, the natural inclination of my heart is two-fold: to strive harder to be such a remarkable woman, and then to quickly collapse in despair that I cannot live up to such a high standard. In my own strength, I am a woman of great weakness, fraught with temptation and shortcomings on all sides.
But as we interpret this passage in light of the whole of Scripture, we quickly remember that God has not called us to walk in our own strength. Remember the words of Paul,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 1 Corinthians 12:9-10
And even more pointedly, the words of Christ,
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
A woman becomes a woman of valor through moment-by-moment dependence on Christ in her home as she does laundry and dishes, in her workplace as she answers emails and phone calls, and in her daily routines as she grocery shops and prepares meals. It is not the fruit of her hands that defines her but the state of her heart before the Lord. A woman of valor is a woman who recognizes the sinful state of her heart and the limitations of her hands, the righteousness of Christ and his limitlessness, and in her fear of the Lord she is ever running to him in utter dependence to exchange her sin and weaknesses for his righteousness and strength.
A Woman of Valor + Her Precious Savior
Let’s turn our eyes to the second part of this verse: “She is far more precious than jewels.” This is so often pulled out of Biblical context, causing women to glow in the glaring lights of self-confidence. Their esteem is built up so high, only to come crashing down as they read the remainder of the chapter. Despair sets in, and they quickly close the Bible, turning to social media for another dose of self-esteem.
But let’s, for a moment, zoom in on that word ‘precious’. Let’s take a look at a few other verses concerning that word.
“… you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6 ESV
A woman of valor has been made precious, not by the works of her hands, but by the precious blood of Christ. Her worth is not wrapped up in her to-do list being accomplished, but in a heart that is captivated by the fear of the Lord and the beauty of Christ. Most assuredly, the focus of her heart cultivates fruit in her life, as we see in the remainder of the chapter, but in seasons of early motherhood, illness and disease, or old age where the fruit of her hands wane due to natural limitations, her worth does not change because her Savior has not changed.
Indeed, she is far more precious than jewels, because the source of her life and the strength of her hands is in Christ, whose worth is immeasurably more precious than all the jewels in all the world.