In 2012, The Atlantic published a widely discussed article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The author, scholar and government official Anne-Marie Slaughter, argued that the intense demands of parenting her teenaged sons and trying to work in the U.S. State Department proved too difficult to balance. Both men and women often feel like their to-do lists are neverending, without enough hours in the day for all that needs to be done.
So for some, Proverbs 31 is met with a sigh of frustration. How can any individual accomplish all of this? This passage actually begins with a rhetorical question: “A wife of noble character who can find?” (v. 10), before describing what that type of woman would look like.
This woman does not fritter away her time with frivolity. She gets up early in the morning and goes to bed late at night (vv. 15, 18). She is shrewd with her family’s finances (v. 16). She is generous and charitable (v. 20). She cares for her family with foresight and wisdom (vv. 21–22).
Notice that verse 23 also includes her husband. He is a respected leader in the community. And the qualities of both the male and female characters personified in this chapter could be applied to God’s design for both men and women. We are designed to be productive and generous and wise. Most of all, suggests the author, these are qualities of an individual who “fears the LORD” (v. 30).
Being busy is not an end in itself. God does not desire for us merely to work long hours but to live a balanced life, aligning our priorities with His. The woman in Proverbs 31 is hardworking, generous, wise, and caring—an accurate reflection of our Creator.