". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Proverbs 31 Women, Revisited

Last year at about this time I wrote a blog post called "A Proverbs 31 Woman." Here it is.

Recently on Facebook that post received renewed attention. It was discussed by someone who blocked me from the discussion and who further refused to allow a link to the post to be included on the thread. That same person alluded to my post on his blog here. I am the writer who is said to have "virtually laugh[ed] off Proverbs 31 . . . saying that text does not really apply to individuals but is really about Christ and the Church."

Since I could not participate in the discussion on Facebook and since I am not allowed to comment on the above writer's blog (or at least have been rejected enough times in the past that I no longer wish to try), I must defend myself here. Please notice that the author quoted above says that I "virtually" laughed off Proverbs 31. That is an interesting qualifier, providing the writer an out. But the truth is that while yes, there was humor in the post, it was self-deprecating humor, laughing at myself. I do not laugh at God's Word. I am a poor, miserable sinner and I neglect it and daily fail to follow it perfectly. But it is my only hope in this world. So I take seriously this accusation and hereby refute it. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16)

The blogger includes me in a group of examples of what he says illustrate an "aversion to sanctification caused by phobic allergic reaction to any talk about good works." I fail to see how my blog post illustrates that phenomenon. The point of the blog post was not to discount good works. As I have been catechized by several dear, faithful Lutheran pastors over the past 25 years, I believe that good works flow from the new man (or woman) in Christ. I am called to keep God's Law perfectly, but because I was dead in my sin and unable to do so God sent His Son to live the perfect life for me and then to go to the cross to pay the price for my sins. I look to Christ Crucified and see that my sin put Him there, and I am devastated, crushed by guilt. But then my Saviour extends to me forgiveness and the gift of faith, and as His love is poured into me it flows right back out again in the form of good works--not of my doing, but of His. "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Regarding the charge that I claimed the passage did not apply to individuals: that is nowhere stated. To state that I see one thing (a picture of Christ and His church) in the blog post is not to discount other things that may be there. In fact, as I go line by line through the passage, showing how I fail to measure up, what am I doing if not applying it to myself? Am I not an individual?

A year has passed since I wrote that post and if I were to write it today I would probably change one thing. I concluded in the post that Proverbs 31 is gospel. But as illustrated by the examples of all the ways I do not succeed at being a Proverbs 31 woman, it is also law. So I should have said it is both. And isn't that pretty much the case with all of God's Word? It kills us with Law and then brings us back to life with Gospel. And in our new life in Christ, we go forth in joy, sharing His love by proclaiming what He has done and gladly serving those He places before us.

As I wrote last year, I sometimes hear women, Christian friends of mine, despairing of their ability to be Proverbs 31 women. They want to be, but they are beaten down by their sin and overwhelmed by life and they are tired, so very tired. The purpose of the blog post was nothing else but to encourage those dear ladies, to tell them that far from being discouraged by the passage they should find comfort in it because while they might not feel like Proverbs 31 women, they are. In Christ they are! And what else would they want to be? They are clothed in the spotless robe of Christ, adorned by the beautiful jewels of His righteousness, equipped to do excellently while their works praise them in the gates.


William Weedon said...

"but because I am dead in my sins."

I think you misspeak here, no? For in Ephesians, the Apostle puts that in the past tense. You WERE dead in your sins prior to being joined to Christ via Baptism - in which you were raised with Him.

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Pastor! Yes, that was a typo (going to fix it now).

Anonymous said...


Before I was Lutheran and was a member of another denomination, I tried my best to be a Proverbs 31 woman, read numerous how to books, and despaired and doubted my salvation, because I could never measure up to what the books told me I should do. Thanks be to God that he led me to the LCMS church, because I now understand what you have so eloquently written here. Thank you for the excellent post.

Lu in Weatherford

TulipGirl said...

Interestingly, a girlfriend pointed to your original Prov 31 post just this week. . . I almost didn't open it because I thought it would be the same-old-same-old here's how to try to measure up as a wife/mom/woman. Instead, you got to the heart of things -- what Christ has done. . . and what Christ is doing in us.

I'm so sorry that what you've written has been misconstrued by others. But honestly, I'm not suprised. Even amongst those of us who keep reorienting ourselves to grace and the Gospel of Christ, it is easy to be allured by trying to "measure up" (even when we know we can't!) I think we're all vulnerable to that at times. . .

Again, thank you for what you've shared. . .

Grace and hope,

Cheryl said...

Wow. Thanks, TulipGirl and Lu for your kind words. They are much appreciated! I appreciate hearing from those who have understood what I was trying to say. It helps.