A few months ago I heard someone mention that they didn’t like Proverbs 31. I didn’t pursue it, but I could definitely understand why. Personally, I have found many of the verses to be very encouraging, but there are some that seem quite dated. Since I was preparing my May fitness and meditation classes around Proverbs 31 I decided it was perhaps time to do a little extra research and take a fresh look at the “virtuous” woman.
First, I read Proverbs 31:10-31 in numerous translations. I found that some translations spoke to me better for some verses, but not all, so I was never able to settle on my favorite translation for the entirety of the passage. However, reading the various translations helped me understand the principles that a “virtuous” woman lives by and displays. These principles are as relevant today as they’ve ever been and worthy of inspection. I’ll break them down below, but first I want to address the opening verse, which has been translated in various ways:
A good woman is hard to find, or who can find a virtuous wife, an excellent wife, a capable wife, a wife of noble character, or one who is superior in all that she is and all that she does. The most common adjective used is virtuous, but what does that mean exactly? Dictionary.com defines its current usage in this way:
- conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright: Lead a virtuous life.
- chaste: a virtuous young person.
But our understanding of the word could use some context. The Hebrew word that was translated virtuous is Chayil. It means virtuous, strong, valiant, able, warrior, powerful, mighty, worthy, and wealth. During the time that the King James Bible was written, virtuous was most often used to signify valor—and manly valor at that. The Latin word is virtus, with the prefix vir meaning man. A virtuous man was strong, brave, excellent, full of integrity. That was the meaning that was in mind when they used virtuous to translate Chayil, even though they were talking about a woman. The virtuous woman in apparently a strong, brave, and mighty warrior, filled with integrity and displaying excellence!
Proverbs 31 consists of the warnings of King Lemuel’s mother to be wary of beautiful women and strong wine. At best they have distracted kings from the important work of leading a nation and upholding justice. At worst, they have utterly destroyed mighty kings. These words were meant as a guide for the most important attributes to look for in a strong partner. It’s an ideal and describes these characteristics in a way King Lemuel could recognize in that time period.
So, as I went through Proverbs 31, I tried to understand these characteristics and translate them for today’s 21 st century woman. I believe they could/should also be applied to men/husbands. Remember, no one is perfect, and these verses were not meant to judge or condemn anyone by falling short. Even today they should be used as an encouragement to find ways we are able to cultivate these virtuous attributes in ourselves today (and look for them in a partner).
- Trustworthy and responsible – she can be trusted to have her husband’s back and do the work that is hers to do, whatever that involves (vs.11-12).
- Good business person – she gladly works with her own hands (vs. 13) and travels afar to find the best deals (vs 14). She creates a strategy, negotiates purchases, and uses the earnings to create more wealth (vs. 16). She doesn’t spend frivolously or go into debt (vs. 22, 24, 27)
- Good provider – she wakes up early to provide her family and staff with what is needed (vs. 15). She works late into the night in order to succeed if that’s what is required (vs. 18). She doesn’t worry about her family because she has provided for them (vs. 21).
- Strong physically and mentally – she “wraps herself in strength, carries herself with confidence, and works hard.”(vs. 17)
- Skillful, capable, and creative – she works skillfully with her hands (vs. 19, 22)
- Generous – she takes care of the poor and extends mercy to the needy (vs. 20)
- Commands respect – through her actions her whole family is respected and her family respects her in return (vs. 23, 28). Her partner sees her as the cream of the crop and speaks highly of her to others (vs. 29).
- Teaches with wisdom and kindness– she is able to instruct others without being proud or arrogant (vs. 26).
- Trusts in the Lord – she reveres God and puts her trust in the Lord, not her own charm or beauty (vs. 30). It is ultimately because of this attribute that she has all of the others!
We can take this vision and live into these attributes ourselves, trusting in the Lord – and with the help of the Holy Spirit of course!
This whole exercise brought to mind the Helen Reddy song I Am Woman:
I am woman, hear me roar…
Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
Be strong and live into the full potential of your womanhood!
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Ahhh, yes. The Proverbs 31 woman. The Holy Grail of biblical femininity. She is the Wonder Woman of Scripture, the unstoppable female juggernaut who conquers life with little or no difficulty. No woman has inspired more books, ministries, blogs, conferences, devotionals, mugs, feelings of guilt, and self-loathing than her.
In the early years of our marriage, Jen felt burdened by Proverbs 31. She felt unable to live up to the pristine example of womanhood on display in that chapter. The shadow of Proverbs 31 hung over all that she did. So we sat down and talked through what it really looked like to be a Proverbs 31 woman.
What did we come up with? Do I want Jen to be a Proverbs 31 woman? Does Jen want to be a Proverbs 31 woman? Yes. Sort of. Kind of. Perhaps I should explain.
Proverbs 31:10–31, as with every other passage in Scripture, needs to be interpreted in light of its context and authorial intent. In other words, we need to read these verses as the author originally intended them to be read. To quote me in junior high school: “No doi.”
So, what is the original intent of Proverbs 31?
First, it’s a poem of praise to an excellent wife. Verses 29–31 say, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Proverbs 31 is not a moral checklist for us husbands to use as a grading sheet for our wives. Rather, it is a checklist of ways we can encourage and praise our wives. When Jen does good to me (verse 12), which she constantly does, I can encourage her that God is at work in her life and praise her for how she is responding to God’s work. When she does the hard work of finding good deals on clothes for our kids (verse 21), I can shower encouragement upon her. When she makes a killer meal, I respond with gratefulness.
Husbands, listen up: if you are using Proverbs 31 as a diagnostic godliness checklist for your wife, you are misusing the passage and hurting your wife. These verses are not a cattle prod for a husband to use to goad his wife toward godliness. These verses are a springboard for a husband to shower encouragement on his wife. If you’re using these verses as a checklist, read them again and let them serve as a swift punch to the throat.
So, does that mean the moral qualities espoused in Proverbs 31 don’t matter at all? Of course not. But we need to think carefully about what it means to really apply these verses.
Proverbs 31 are principles to be pursued, NOT practices to be prescribed.
Take a closer look. Verse 15 says, “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” What is being described here? A woman who is diligent in caring for her entire family. It is not prescribing a time to wake up, a system of recipe planning, a particular diet, or anything else. The takeaway? A godly woman seeks to be diligent in caring for her family. How that plays itself out will look a thousand different ways in a thousand different families. If a family has special needs, the wife may need to be diligently care for the special needs child while the husband cooks dinner. You get the point. If you want to wake up at 6 AM to bake fresh bread, wonderful. Just don’t do it out of a sense of guilt.
Consider verse 16: “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” The principle at work here? Prudence. A godly woman uses prudence as she works within the confines of her family income. This verse has nothing to say about who does the budget, who sets spending limits, or anything like that. Those practices, which flow out of the prudence principle, will look different in every family. In some families, the wife will have a better head for numbers and therefore watch the budget. In other families, the husband will be the one on budget duty. But the principle remains the same: a godly woman uses prudence.
One more. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (verse 20). A godly woman is generous toward those in need. That’s the principle. This verse doesn’t mean that a woman needs to knit sweaters for the homeless or serve in soup kitchens, good as those things may be. It just means that a godly woman looks for ways to bless the needy. That’s it.
When we turn Proverbs 31 into a checklist to be rigidly followed, we crush the women in our churches. After all, the woman described in Proverbs 31 never sleeps! She rises early and her light doesn’t go out at night. If a woman tries to literally follow all that is listed in Proverbs 31, she will crash and burn.
I want Jen to be a Proverbs 31 woman in the sense that she is seeking to obey the principles laid out in those verses (and she is—heroically!). But I don’t want Jen to be constantly haunted by the sense that she isn’t measuring up to God’s commands. That isn’t how God wants Proverbs 31 to function in Jen’s life.
And what if you find yourself not even close to the principles described in Proverbs 31? Remember: you’re a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior. God doesn’t love you because you’re superwoman; he loves you because you seek to obey every principle and practice Jesus taught. You can rest in that.
Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/YakobchukOlena
Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. Find out more at The Blazing Center.
The capable woman, though briefly mentioned in Proverbs chapter 31, is a modern marvel and model for married and single women to emulate.
Her endearing qualities echo throughout the modern world and continue to influence women who have a reverential fear of God. Some modern women, however, find it difficult to live up to the pattern left by the proverbial woman. The pedestal she sits on seems far-fetched.
Becoming a Proverbs 31 woman does not have to be daunting. This composition serves to remove those doubts and fears. You’ll learn about the characteristics you need to become a Proverbs 31 woman – single or married.
A Brief Backdrop Of The Proverbs 31 Woman
The capable woman in the Bible was not referenced to make modern women feel insecure or inadequate. Rather, she was used to show the ideal characteristics of a woman who’s fitting for a king.
“Mother knows best”. That expression is often used after a mother gives her children well-needed counsel. Lemuel, the unidentifiable king of Proverbs 31, received strong counsel and advice from his mother regarding what was ‘fitting’ for a king, because he had failed to live up to her expectations of him.
At Proverbs 31: 2 & 3, Lemuel’s mother said of him, “What should I tell you, O my son… Do not give your vigor to women”.
From her stern counsel, he came to appreciate that promiscuous women led to the destruction of kings. Lemuel’s mother wanted a better future for him like any other parent. She later outlined the sort of woman her son should choose for a wife. That takes us to the elephant in the room: What is a Proverbs 31 woman?
What Is A Proverbs 31 Woman?
The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t short on descriptive words. Virtuous, efficient, worthy, and capable are all suitable words to throw her way. Proverbs 31: 10 uses a beautiful and breathtaking description of the ideal woman when it says, “Her value is far more than that of corals.”
Corals were precious commodities in Bible times. They were hard to get, rare, and beautiful items to behold. Their value was comparable to sapphire, gold, and silver.The value of the proverbial woman outweighs that of corals. She’s beautiful, difficult to obtain, and rare.
As a single or married woman, shouldn’t you want to be associated with the woman of Proverbs 31, whose value exceeds that of precious corals?What are the characteristics that make this woman so treasured and what can you do to become a modern Proverbs 31 woman? Let’s find out.
What Are The Characteristics Of A Modern Proverbs 31 Woman?
A trustworthy woman is a sweet touch to the soul. She’s reliable, dependable, honest, and responsible. “Her husband trusts her from his heart”, indicates Proverbs 31: 11.
The husband of a capable woman trusts that she’s able to make solid and sound decisions without always soliciting his advice. He’s confident that the affairs of his household are under control should he leave to take care of matters from home. He’s sure that his wife is aware of what takes place at home and looks after the children in her care. He values her insight because her goal is to reap blessings and benefits for her family.
As a modern woman, you can be trustworthy. You can gain the trust of your husband by availing yourself when he needs help. Ask yourself, do I readily get things done around the home without frequent prodding? Am I known for doing things around the home or taking care of my children? Do I make it a practice to share important matters concerning the household with my spouse? You become what you practice. When you develop the practice of being consistent, your mate can trust you.
The Proverbs 31 Woman Is Industrious
“The bread of laziness she does not eat”. (Proverbs 31: 27) The woman of Proverbs 31 values hard work. She does not allow her hands to drop; she’s productive. She’s active in the home and provides tasty meals for her family to grow healthy and strong.
A noblewoman isn’t afraid of performing unpleasant – or undesirable – tasks. Not only does she work indoors, but she adds life and beauty to her outdoor environment. She has a proper and balanced attitude toward work – she finds delight in what she does and prepares her heart for hard work.
Can you imitate her attitude toward work? You’re not expected to buy and cultivate a vineyard as she did, but can you demonstrate a willing attitude to get involved at home, maybe by preparing meals or cleaning the home to keep your family together?
What about supporting your husband secularly should the need arise? When the finances don’t add up, could you seek out ways to help your mate settle important bills to keep the lights on and water running?
Stu and Lisa on How to Be a Proverbs 31 Husband
The last twenty-one verses of Proverbs 31 are about a good and virtuous wife.
There are some great character qualities for women to think about there – hardworking, generous, passionate, caring, industrious, a sacrificial heart, a good speaker, loves to laugh, and she enjoys her family.
When I look at these verses, I notice that the husband of this woman is mentioned 3 times.
Lets look at those 3 mentions and see if we can glean something for husbands today.
How to be a Proverbs 31 Husband
1. vs. 11 – Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.
This husband trusts his wife. One version of this passage says that with her, “he has everything he needs’ . There must be Trust.
Not controlling. Not manipulation. Trust.
Do you believe that she has your best interests in mind? Do you believe that you are on the same team with her? Are you together on the some of the “biggies” in marriage – SEX, MONEY, CHILDREN, COMMUNICATION and INLAWS?
This husband trusts her and she enriches his life. When you are on the same team with your wife, it allows her to bring fullness to your life. When you trust, you allow her to be all she is, you build her up and allow her to grow and blossom into a beautiful woman. If you don’t trust, she is unable to thrive.
Wives – Do you give your husband the opportunity to trust you? Do you keep the things he tells you in confidence? Do you build him up, or tear him down with your words?
2. vs. 23 – Her husband is well known at the city gates where he sits with the other civic leaders.
This husband is respected by others. These section in Proverbs talks mainly about the woman being industrious and hardworking, but in this verse, we see that the husband ain’t no slacker. He’s involved with business and work going on in the city.
This is something we should all strive to be. Men who care about the decisions that are going on where we live. Our Villages, cities, states, nations…we should be involved, we should care about what is going on where we live.
The phrase – “Behind every good man is a good woman” comes to mind. Because of the wonderful relationship that this man has with his wife – he is free to be a decision maker, a mover and a shaker. She is such a woman of great character, that he is able to excel in the marketplace.
Together, this husband and wife are an amazing team.
Hubbys: Are you the kind of man that she can believe in?
Wifeys: What can your hubby do to help you believe in him?
3. vs. 28,29 – …Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
This guy knows how to give a compliment. “Other women are nice and all, but Sweet Lips – YOU are the cream of the crop.” (that’s the SGLT version – Stu Gray Living Translation)
We need to compliment our wives. They take care of so many things. My Beautiful Wife™ is a great “administrator” person – she’s good with the bills, she’s good with the organizing of the house, the laundry, the scheduling, the food we eat… and how much do I acknowledge that?
Not nearly enough.
The compliments and encouragements have to be real. They must be heart felt, and they can’t be generic. Think of something specific that your wife does and that makes your life easier…
Then tell her.
To be a Proverbs 31 Husband we should:
*Trust Our Wives!
*Be a Man Worthy of a Good Woman!
*Praise Her More Often!
Ladies – How does your Husband Measure up? Is he a Proverbs 31 Guy?
“She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also,and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
Proverbs 31 is a beautiful passage talking about the virtuous wife. This exemplary woman is said to be worth far above rubies.
Certainly this is the type of woman a godly man is looking for when searching for a wife but have you ever noticed the ending of this chapter? Verse 28 tells us that not only does her husband praise her but her children rise up and called her blessed.
I think the model of the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 is also a model of a blessed mother!
I don’t believe the Proverbs 31 woman became such and excellent wife and mother on the day of her wedding or on the day her first baby was born. No. I think it took years of intentional practice.
While I don’t think a person can ever be completely prepared for motherhood ahead of time (some things can only be learned by experience) I do think it’s important that we begin preparing for this special job as soon as possible.
5 Things We Can Learn From Proverbs 31 To Help Us Be a Better Mother:
1. Diligence The Proverbs 31 woman learned the art of diligence. We can see that she was a hard worker who carried out her tasks well and in a timely fashion. Diligence will be needed to tenderly and carefully train children. This is a trait we can begin learning even before we have children.
2. Compassion A good mother has compassion. The blessed mother and excellent wife we read about was always caring for her family and extending herself to the poor and needy. Are you cultivating seeds of compassion in your life?
3. Servant’s Heart The Proverbs 31 woman has a heart that desires to serve others. This passage says she goes to great lengths to gather food for her family and she rises when it’s early to prepare it for them. Having a mother with a loving, servant’s heart is a valuable gift for a child and it’s something we should start growing and learning now.
4. Wisdom “She opens her mouth with wisdom”. Typically the only way a person can speak wisdom is if they first gain wisdom in their heart. Begin planting in your heart spiritual and practical wisdom by studying, observing and intentional learning. I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been to me to have a wise mother.
5. Kindness The Proverbs 31 woman is a kind mother, “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Perhaps this is the one of the greatest gifts a mother can give her children, kind affection, in both her speech and in her actions. Again, this is something we must strive towards and learn because kindness doesn’t always come easy when the days are long and challenging.
Single woman, wife without children yet, I’d like to encourage you to take time now to learn what it takes to be a Proverbs 31 wife AND mother. This will be a gift to your husband and a huge blessing to your future children. May it be said of you:
“Her children rise up and call her blessed” -Proverbs 31:28
Who can read that and not have the urge to be like her?
She lacks nothing, is diligent, speaks the truth and carries herself in such a way that God has designed. In today’s society we focus so much on the outward and gaining more material wise and forget about having noble character.
Lord, take me back to this time. Make me new.I want to be a woman who seeks YOU.
I want the right guy to come into my life and to know that when he pursues me that it is because I fall under the criteria of a Proverbs 31 woman. I want to be so lost in You that he has to win me over. Guard my heart, Lord. Do not let me be quick to desire a man but to be patient and make him work for my love.
Help me to speak words that are from you and show of your great love.
I want to fear you, God.
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2 thoughts on “ Prayer to become a Proverbs 31 Woman ”
I think there’s more to the Proverbs 31 woman than people initially realize when just reading the passage. I’ve incidentally been reading a new book by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst called “Kingdom Woman” that has given me new insights. Right off the bat they talk about the Proverbs 31 woman being the hallmark of kingdom women, “But the Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. Neither is a kingdom woman called to perfection. Women, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman and more – but that doesn’t mean you do it all at the same time.” They talk about life flowing through seasons and about getting help, not trying to do it all. It’s really eye-opening. If you’re interested in Dr. Evan’s book, they have information and even free devotional downloads at kingdomwomanbook . com. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.
Proverbs 31 tells the tale of the ultimate woman, wife and mother…she sets the standard for everything that a modern-day woman wants to be in her life. This unnamed (s)hero is the “business” from sun up to sun down. From the moment that her eyes open and thank God for another day, she is showing people how it’s done. She’s super mom, rocking her business. Her husband has bragging rights about his boo-thang.
Women aspire to be like her because she is the wife of noble character and “she is worth more than rubies.”
The characteristics of this outstanding lady are listed out and showcase her amazing existence. Verses 10-12
And that’s where a lot of ladies stop. That’s where they set their sights and ambitions. Some go a little further and get a snapshot of what’s really going on. And if you look at it, you might wonder if you have set the bar a bit high…
The virtuous woman is not just a brilliant beauty who has it all together. She has half a chapter of Proverbs written about her.
She is a servant.
She gets up before dawn. She makes breakfast for her husband and kids
She works herself to the bone.
She never complains about it.
I went back and really read the scriptures about all this lady did and how much work she put in every day. I was honest and I realized that I have to work up to being a Proverbs 31 woman.
But never fear! The life that this woman made for herself and her family is actually attainable!
The important thing to remember is that it’s easy for her to do all of this for her family because she fears the Lord
4 Ways to Be a Proverbs 31 Wife
- Realize and recognize that you are working for the glory of God and not for man. Colossians 3:23 reminds us to “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” I had the hardest time doing this at my last job. All I could see were the people and the foolishness that was going on obstructed my view of God and His purpose for my life. I ended up quitting. You can’t do that in marriage. You can’t just quit being a wife because you don’t like your husband or because he does something that you don’t particularly like. Marriage is a ministry and it’s often the first one that other children, singles and couples see in their attempt to understand what marriage is and should be. When you work at your marriage, you are doing it to glorify God and to show God to others through the way you treat your spouse. There will be a lot of days that you have to really concentrate on putting God’s will before your desire.
- Define submission in your marriage, understand it and then apply it. Married women are very familiar with these scriptures because married men are familiar with these scriptures. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” This is very closely related to #1, as in they both call for us to have a higher purpose in our lives and in our marriage. What does submission look like for you? For me, it was willingly making my husband my business manager and consulting with him when I made big purchases for my business. It’s checking with him before I go out or travel across the country at the last minute to do something I want to do. It’s agreeing to stop buying clothes online because we need to redistribute our funds for something. It’s not being bossed around or taken advantage of, but understanding that as God as ordained him to be my husband, I trust in him to do what is best for our family and to lead us in all things.
- Practice humility. When was the last time you told your significant other “thank you” for buying you lunch
or the last time that you said you were sorry for something which you were in the wrong? We all have pride, but a Proverbs 31 woman will remember #1 and #2 and know that she will have to take a back seat to her ego, if doing so will bring peace to her home and glory to God.
- Learn to season your words. I’m tired just thinking about all of the things that this lady did. Anyone who knows me, knows that when I’m tired, I’m not a nice person…and that’s putting it mildly. Part of being a woman of virtue is knowing how to talk to and treat other people. Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 18:21 which reminds us that “ Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit.” I used to take that scripture literally, thinking that I could murder someone with my words. And while I may not be arrested for calling my husband a disrespectful name, saying it will slowly and surely kill our relationship and our friendship. I will eat the fruit of the disrespect that I sow into my household. Colossians 4:6 is not just for friends and strangers…it’s appropriate inside your home first! “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” My patience technique is to breathe through my nose. When I do that, I can’t have my mouth open at the same time and it gives me a few moments to put some seasoning on my words.
There are many other things that the Proverbs 31 woman did for her household. The most important thing that she ever did was to understand her place in her world and in her marriage as a daughter of the King before any of the other roles she graciously and exceptionally fulfilled. Think about why you want to be her and for whom you want to emulate her…and do it for the right person!
10 It is hard to find an excellent wife.
She is worth more than rubies.
11 Her husband trusts her completely.
With her, he has everything he needs.
12 She does him good and not harm
for as long as she lives.
13 She looks for wool and linen.
She likes to work with her hands.
14 She is like a trader’s ship.
She goes far to get food.
15 She gets up while it is still dark.
She prepares food for her family.
She also feeds her servant girls.
16 She looks at a field and buys it.
With money she has earned, she plants a vineyard.
17 She does her work with energy.
Her arms are strong.
18 She makes sure that what she makes is good.
She works by her lamp late into the night.
19 She makes thread with her hands
and weaves her own cloth.
20 She welcomes the poor.
She helps the needy.
21 She does not worry about her family when it snows.
They all have fine clothes to keep them warm.
22 She makes coverings for her bed.
Her clothes are made of linen and other expensive material.
23 Her husband is recognized at the city meetings.
He makes decisions as one of the leaders of the land.
24 She makes linen clothes and sells them.
She provides belts to the merchants.
25 She is strong and is respected by the people.
She looks forward to the future with joy.
26 She speaks wise words.
And she teaches others to be kind.
27 She watches over her family.
And she is always busy.
28 Her children bless her.
Her husband also praises her.
29 He says, “There are many excellent wives,
but you are better than all of them.”
30 Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you.
But a woman who respects the Lord should be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned.
She should be openly praised for what she has done.