“Who can find a virtuous woman?”

“Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” (New King James Version, Prov. 19:14).

At the General Conference Session last summer, a decisive majority of delegates from all over the world voted against women’s ordination—a decision which, I believe, was based on God’s Word. Certain segments of the world field have responded by presuming, against a world church policy that has now been voted three times, that they will presume to ordain women to the gospel ministry anyway.                     

One such territory where this spirit can be found is the Trans-European Division, of which the Netherlands Union—my Union—is part. Nine months after the nerve-wracking vote in San Antonio, this Union is planting seeds of opposition still. A well-known pastor in the Netherlands, youth secretary of the Union and former executive secretary, wrote a book titled Called By God.  Through the influence of the Netherlands Union, this book has been delivered into the hands of all Seventh-day Adventists in this country.

Distracted from God’s purpose for women

Something that bothers me about this opposition, besides it being against the Bible and General Conference policy, is that this battle between the sexes is taking away our focus from what it truly means to be a woman of God. We forget what it is like to be created in His image with a special and specific calling.

So how can we define a true woman of God? I think the best example can be found in Proverbs 31:10-31. Many times have I read this chapter, but when I analysed every verse to truly understand its message, my eyes were opened:

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates (King James Version).

There are a few things that stand out:

  1. She is diligent, a hard working woman and not idle (verses 13-15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27).
  2. She is an economist who knows how to deal with finances and how to make profit (verses 16 and 24).
  3. She seeks the Lord’s wisdom (verse 26).
  4. She fears the Lord (verse 30).
  5. She provides for the household necessities for her family (verses 11, 13-16, 18, 19, 21, 24, 27).
  6. She is willing to do physical labor (verses 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24).
  7. She reaches out to the poor and needy (also a way of evangelism). She is caring (verse 20).

Restoring women in His image

What is interesting to me is that a virtuous wife, according to the NKJV Remnant Study Bible, literally is a wife of valor, in the sense of all forms of excellence. In other words, a woman should have the qualities mentioned in these verses at all times. This virtuous woman is consistent in what she does and the way she is, as we should be. This is a high standard, but a standard I believe every woman can reach by the help of Christ (Philippians 4:9).

The plan of salvation was there even before the fall in Eden. That includes restoring us into His image: the way we were before the fall.

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but ac-cording to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

God wants to restore women into what He always meant for us to be. Eve, before her sin, was an example of this plan. It is when we allow Him to work in us, and we become more and more like Him, that He can use us most. It was because Christ was completely surrendered to the will of His Father, that God could use Him to save the world (John 6:38). Now Christ is calling us to further the work that He has begun (Phil. 1:6).

“The Lord has a work for women, as well as for men...They can come close to the hearts of those whom men cannot reach” (The Review and Herald, August 26, 1902).

“There is a work neglected or done imperfectly that could be thoroughly accomplished through the help that they [women] are able to give. They could reach a class that ministers cannot reach” (Ellen White, Daughters of God, 16).

Femininity through the world’s eyes

Obviously the world sees the role for women completely differently. It is easier to be lazy and to complain about labor, than to work hard. God calls us: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

Girls are not taught in schools how to do domestic work anymore. Rarely is their education practical, preparing girls to become virtuous women later on, who are not afraid to break a sweat. Ellen White explains that by a lack of this knowledge and therefore inefficiency of the wife, many families are wrecked (The Faith I Live By, page 256).

The world is definitively not teaching women to seek the Lord’s wisdom. Only knowledge that comes from other people will do. And lastly, no one will deny that we are living in on a planet in which women are continually tempted to buy more, and more, and more, spending all their money on products they usually don’t even need. These products are only there to gratify the lusts, not to help us or others heavenward.

Humility: the ingredient for true womanhood

The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is the complete opposite. All qualities found in this chapter can be summarized by just one word: humility, or humbleness. She does not try to be overpowering, to be dominant and in control, but she humbly takes up her work and happily does what it is her duty to do. It is then that she is noticed by the townsmen: “Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own work praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31).

I see this virtuous woman of the Bible reflected in the following statements:

God wants workers who can carry the truth to all classes, high and low, rich and poor. In this work women may act an important part. God grant that those who read these words may put forth earnest efforts to present an open door for consecrated women to enter the field. Those who in their lifework have not come into contact with the higher classes of society, need not feel that they cannot do the work. It is not eloquence that makes their work acceptable. It is through the human and contrite that the Lord works. The dignified and self-sufficient cannot touch or help needy souls (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases 5, 162).

“Let not those who profess the religion of Christ descend to trifling conversation, to unbe-coming familiarity with women of any class, whether married or single. Let them keep their proper places with all dignity...Young ladies should be reserved and modest. They should give no occasion for their good to be evil spoken of” (Ellen White, Counsels on Health, 294).

Let us get on our knees and plead with God to make us virtuous women, praying for a willing heart. If we allow Him, God will keep His promise to us and make us those women He has always intended for us to be.

“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (literarily: My delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (literarily: married) for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married” (Is. 62:4).