Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Proverbs 31 Does Not Say

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:26

There is an idealism that has taken deep roots particularly with Christian homeschooling families and that is woven in many books on homeschooling. It is somewhere between Complementarianism and Biblical or Christian Patriarchy, leaning mostly toward the latter. I personally felt the draw of it a decade ago and seriously considered if I had been missing out on blessings for not covering my head or just wearing jeans, instead of long skirts all the time, or treating my husband as lord of the manor. Why I did not crossover to this lifestyle was because I did not feel convicted by my Lord to do so and I prayed sincerely about this often for about two years, yet at the same time, as I read books by Christian authors on homeschooling, I felt almost convinced that I should feel convicted by the Lord and I just was not hearing Him. Sometimes it is difficult to discern what is from God and what is man's addition to God's Law, even the Pharisees were convinced of their righteousness until Jesus came along.

The thing is when I do not trust my own judgement, I do not turn my trust to the judgement of others either, but I prefer to go to the Source. The only One who is truly trustworthy and knows exactly what He wants from me. The only One who has the right to convict me and no need to convince me...well, sometimes I can be rather reluctant, but this post is not about that. God just was not saying for me to embrace either philosophy.

Perception is always interesting to me. I could write about every verse in Proverbs 31 in detail, as other bloggers have, but I would rather address the parts that are looked over as being irrelevant today and what it does not say, but many mistakenly think it does.

It does not say that the mother should homeschool her children or instruct any children in academics. Was it even allowed that Hebrew women were taught to read then? It also does not say that a man is to expect his wife to be his servant and the man to handle all the financial decisions. In fact, it states the wife considers a field, buys it, and plants a vineyard (verse 16), which sounds to me like she manages finances and it also does not say how or even if her husband is involved at all in such a decision.

The Proverbs 31 wife has servants (verse 15). Now it does not say she must have servants, it is just assumed that she does and that she should give portions of food to them after her household, of which servants are not a part apparently, so the household would be the woman's family. I personally do not have any servants and I do not know any Christian women who do, but it does not say "if" she has servants, so maybe we are suppose to have servants and are not doing our Biblical duty if we do not?

It also states very clearly that the Proverbs 31 wife spins as that was for what the distaff and spindle were used (verse 19). Well, I did see a Christian woman at a spindle at a historical reenactment once, but I do not know any Christian women personally, who even own a distaff and spindle let alone know how to use one.

I know a few Christian women who sew, but not many and I think it would be rare to find those who make linen garments and sell them (verse 24). If every Christian woman supplied belts to the tradesmen, I think there would be no market for belts left in just a few days. All that aside though, how can we be the Christian wives we are meant to be if we do not follow this Biblical standard?

Oh, I love this one too. It states that women should wear purple (verse 22) and their families should wear red (verse 21). Even the Amish are missing out on this one!

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture now. Cultures change. While I take the Bible literally, I cannot ignore that some things are written for the culture at that time and Proverbs 31 was advice to a son in choosing a wife of that time, rather than God given duties for women of all time to live by, as some use them. I would also point out that Proverbs 31 says nothing of the woman loving the Lord with all her heart or serving her husband like a servant would. It talks of a woman making the clothing, but not about laundering and mending—maybe that is what the servants were for? I strongly believe that the general concepts of the Proverbs 31 wife are still desirable, but not the specific duties as stated.

The question then is what parts of the Bible are culturally related and what ones are not, therein is the division of certain Christian ideals. I personally believe that there are differences in the genders, but just because my husband is a man I would not deprive him of his love of cooking. It just so happens that cooking is something I rarely enjoy and who but God could better balance one's dislike for a thing than choosing a spouse who would love it?

Now let's us look at what Paul wrote to the Galatians that definitely was not based on the culture of that time, but all cultures for all time:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:23-26

Something changed with the coming of Christ in regards to the law. The law was to be our tutor to lead us to Christ, but we are no longer under the law because all believers are sons of God: there is neither male or female. Not there will be neither male or female as in heaven, but that there is, in this present time under faith, no difference between the genders. There is equality.

Years ago now, I used to have severe back pain and could do so little. My husband washed, folded, and put way the laundry; prepared meals; washed dishes; cleaned whatever needed cleaning; helped me get around; and worked 60 to 90 hours a week for his job outside of our home. He never thought that the work he did at home was work for only women. He thought of it as what was necessary to be done and I was unable to do. No job is beneath him and because of this and his love for God, he is a man is completely worthy of my respect and trust.

When my back was healed, I did most of the housework and managing our finances (which I like to do) with the exception of making investments, but my husband still does his laundry after he returns from a business trip and he likes to cook, which he finds relaxing, and I still like for him to cook! No, he could never have birthed and nursed babies as only a woman could, but most everything else is a matter of necessity, personal preference, and ability between us. He likes to work on cars and I do not, but neither of us would think of it as wrong if it was the other way around and the Bible does not tell us whether being a car mechanic is woman's or man's work. Our perceptions on that are cultural and, although I readily admit that in general men seem more interested in mechanics than women, I also think more women would be if it was not thought culturally to be a man thing also.

As I see it the Bible was not written so that we would aspire to have cookie-cutter Christian families and Stepford-like wives or husbands, but to be a guide to Christ. What duty each performs does not have any bearing on who is the head of the family, even Jesus washed his disciples feet after walking with them all day! As long as the couple surrender to His reign over the marriage and the family, the who does what duty in and out of the home is of so little importance...except to those who prefer to live under the law (or laws not even defined in the Bible) instead of under faith.

~ My Lord, a family is such a precious gift and we each have our duties to each other in service to You. Guide us to do all according to Your will only and love You with all our hearts above all things. ~


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.