When my two younger brothers and I were in elementary school, my mother began to share a mantra with us: “I want you to marry a Korean Christian with a nice personality.” It was simple, direct and relentless. As long as our future bride met these three criteria, our marriage partner would be a success in her eyes. God truly has a sense of humor, because my wife Sarah meets mom’s three qualifications and so much more!

Often when pastors have preached on Proverb 31, what men have heard is every good Christian wife should mimic this virtuous woman, and what women take away is, “I’ll never live up to that!” These heightened expectations have left many Christian husbands disappointed and many Christian wives discouraged. However, I’m not convinced that setting up such unrealistic expectations for women was the author’s original intention.

Instead, what we find in Proverb 31 are three guiding principles of what God asks of godly married women and mothers. They may not reach perfection in all of these areas, but to the best of their ability they are try to please the Lord by practicing these principles in daily life.

I. A godly woman seeks to love her husband and children (Proverbs 31:11-28).
Approximately half of these verses focus on a godly woman’s relationship with her husband and children. We know from reading Scripture that God cares immensely about the family. God wants marriages to last and laughter of children to fill the halls. A woman who seeks to love her husband and children well bring glory to the Lord and peace in the home.

In today’s fast-paced and evolving society, roles in the family have changed. Some women enjoy caring for the family by cooking meals at home, while others are more comfortable working at the office and providing for the family financially. However, the guiding biblical principle is that a woman of godly character will love her husband and children well.

She may not be able to knit, cook, have a green thumb or be adept in real estate; but she still works diligently to “watch over the affairs of her household.” Godly women please the Lord by loving others well.

II. A godly woman seeks to be faithful to God in all things (Proverbs 31:16-30).
Another significant portion of this passage describes how a godly woman seeks to be faithful to God in all areas of life. She is careful in her speech. She is a good steward of her God-given talents and resources. She is confident because she gives 100 percent to the Lord in everything.

Noël Piper has written a wonderful book, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. In it, she highlights the lives of several faithful Christian women through the centuries such as Sarah Edwards who was “faithful in the mundane,” Esther Ahn Kim who was “faithful in suffering” and others. Piper writes: “These ordinary women had an extraordinary God who enabled them to do extraordinary things” (p. 11). Through faithfulness to God, godly women please the Lord by loving others well.

III. A godly woman seeks to obey God by caring for the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:20).
Finally, it’s not a coincidence that verse 20 is placed strategically in the middle of our passage. In the midst of trying to love their husbands and children well and seeking to be faithful to God, a woman might think, “How will I have time to care for anyone else?” Yet, God uses women of faith to show their husbands and children how to obey the Lord in sharing their lives and resources with the poor and needy. In both testaments, God exhibits great concern for the least, the last and the lost. We are God’s hands and feet who put His words into action.

I remember entering the home of a church member. Above the front door in the foyer, she had posted this sign: “Live well, love much, laugh often.” Godly women will not be perfect in everything listed in Proverbs 31, but their homes will be filled with life, love and laughter. Godly women please the Lord by loving others well.

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