A competent wife, how does one find her?… Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. – Proverbs 31:10a, 30
You can bet that when a man starts a conversation with, “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but…”, he will indeed sound sexist. Once he does, there’s no easy way of getting out of the grave he just dug, nor should there be.
In Proverbs 31 the writer talks about the “competent wife.” From the modern perspective, he could have prefaced the whole thing with, “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but a competent wife: how does one find her?”
He then devotes 20 verses describing the perfect help-mate for the husband. If anybody could have done all that’s described in those verses, then there would have been two people who walked on water.
We can try to make it less offensive to our 21st century ears by understanding the patriarchal culture back then and the society-defined roles. We can try to make it more relevant by de-sexing the whole thing and substitute “person” or “spouse” for “wife.”
However, we don’t need to do any of that in order to hear the Word of the Lord today.
“A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
When you read all the qualities described in Proverbs 31, and summarize it with “fearing the Lord,” then that loaded Old Testament phrase takes on a fresh, simple meaning.
Fearing the Lord means understanding your place in life. Your place as the created and not the Creator, regardless of gender or role. Fearing the Lord means being concerned about serving God, not expecting God to serve you. All the things you read about the “competent [person]” is one man’s attempt to describe such a life.
His words call us to pray a simple daily prayer: “God, how can I live today so that you’ll be proud to call me your son or daughter?”