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How does Jesus define biblical womanhood?

By: stephanie long

My house is a mess, I don’t make casseroles, and my kids aren’t perfect. I even managed to burn a crockpot meal. As a wife and mother, I spent years feeling “less than,” “not good enough,” and failing to meet some misconstrued Proverbs 31 ideal of a woman.

I was overwhelmed and trying to do better in each of these areas, so I could finally be “enough.” I incorrectly believed that Eve being Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18-23) and God saying “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28) meant I existed to be a wife and mother. If I wasn’t meeting man-made standards of what that looked like, I was worthless.

Cultures have defined women by their abilities as wives and mothers for millennia. But that’s not how Jesus defines us.

Jesus lived in a culture where women were considered property, were not allowed to speak in public, and were not allowed to learn. Their value was entirely based on their relationship to and service for men — first their fathers, then their husbands.

Redefining Womanhood

Jesus turned the culture upside down. He saw women as people — not property to be used and abused.

When Jesus visited Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Martha ran around preparing food while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus talked to and taught Mary.

Martha got angry because Mary wasn’t helping her.

But Jesus had a different view of what was most important. “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Jesus didn’t say Martha was wrong for cooking. He set her free of a burden and invited her to sit with Him. Her relationship with Jesus was more important than what she was doing for Him.

Taking care of our families is important. But when we find our identity and value in cooking, cleaning, and our children’s behavior, we’ll always strive and always fall short. Activity doesn’t define us.

Jesus gets to tell us who we are. And our relationship with Him is more important than any activity we do for Him or for our families.

But What About the Proverbs 31 “Ideal Woman”?

Doesn’t Proverbs 31 say we must be impossibly perfect wives and mothers? Don’t we have to keep spotless houses, make Pinterest-worthy dinners, and have children who always obey immediately? Doesn’t the Bible say that’s our job?

No.

Proverbs 31 isn’t a list of activities required to be the ideal woman. Her activities are not what make her “an ideal woman” — it’s not about preparing food and making clothes. The activities listed are examples showing her character. Proverbs 31 is a picture of living out the principles taught in the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs. And all her positive characteristics come from her relationship with God (Proverbs 31:30).

Our worth is not defined by what we do; it’s defined by who we are in Jesus.

You don’t have to be June Cleaver to be an “ideal woman.” June Cleaver was not even a real person. Our worth is not defined by what we do; it’s defined by who we are in Jesus.

So Who Does Jesus Say We Are?

The Bible is full of truths about who Jesus says we are, and none of them have to do with how well we perform tasks.

We’ve come a long way from the days of women being considered inferior to men and only valuable for what they could do for men. Though there’s still much to work through, Women’s Equality Day is one reminder of the steps we’ve taken to affirm women’s place in modern society (and their votes, since 1920). But with respect to the value of women, let’s not put requirements on ourselves, or let anyone else put requirements on us, that Jesus doesn’t put on us.

When we feel ourselves striving to be the “ideal woman,” let’s take a breath and rest in the fact that what we do doesn’t define who we are.

Want to learn more about what the Bible says about women? Check out the Eve & Adam study and read the stories of 30 different women in the Bible.

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