Where True Worth Comes From (Proverbs 31:30)
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. –Proverbs 31:30
Open days at Oddz & Endz Thrift Store are like Christmas. Every day dozens of sealed boxes arrive, their contents waiting to be discovered by eager volunteers and shoppers alike. Barbie houses and hand-blown Mexican stemware with cobalt edges, Christmas ornaments and gardening books, mantel clocks and cooking pots, cut crystal candy dishes and clay coffee mugs, one treasure after another lies hidden away in the dark of each box. They are all awaiting one thing: valuation and pricing.
One of our volunteers’ primary roles is to open all the boxes, sort all the donations, and put a price on each item before it is delivered to the sales floor. Some donations have intrinsic value, based on what they are. Original oil paintings from local artists have an intrinsic value for us. Swedish stemware and Scandinavian linens have value because of what they are.
Other thrift store treasures have imputed value. We can Google the intrinsic value of a piece of art. But what do we do with a mirror and mounting harp from an antique dresser where the dresser has long since been consigned to the burn pile and the mirror itself is losing the reflective silver layer from sheer age? Who would want it? And how much would they be willing to pay? In that case we have to assign a value and a price to the wretched old mirror. That’s imputed value: value determined not on the condition of the item itself but on the values of the evaluator.
Most of us would pass by the non-functional mirror as having little or no value, and expect it to be cheap, if not free. But I know folks who mount the harp and mirror upside down on the wall, add a few silk flowers, a shelf, and a portrait and have one of the most stunning architectural wall hangings you will find anywhere. I price the mirror at $35 and it sells before the end of the day.
I’ve heard more than one sermon on Proverbs 31 in my day, some good, others misguided. Often the passage is misinterpreted as a to-do list for women who want to be godly: “You’re a good woman, a good wife, a good mother if you exhibit all these attitudes and actions, so you better get started.” I think the chapter is better understood in light of the summary statement in verse 30, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Here God takes all the conditions the world might use to find a woman’s intrinsic value–her looks, her physical strength, her intellect, her ambition, her skills, and more–and transcends them with a preference for His imputed value. It is not charm that God values above all; beauty, too, is empty. A woman’s personality and appearance offer little intrinsic value in God’s eyes. Her true value is an imputed one. God values a woman who reverences Him, puts her faith in Him, is filled with His Spirit, His heart, His joy, and walks with Him day after day in faith and faithfulness. This is imputed value.
The New Testament broadens this out to all believers. Our imputed value is Christ. The Father sees the Son, rather than sin, in us and cherishes us on account of Him. Christ in us is our imputed value. A woman, a man, a child, a teen, whoever fears the Lord, who lives in relation to God through faith in Christ, that person is to be praised. A person saved by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone to the glory of God alone–now that is a person to be praised.
What intrinsically valuable traits do you prize in yourself and in others?
Does knowing that God values the fear of Him most highly change how you value what the world values?
Ask the Lord to help you read Proverbs 31 in light of verse 30.
Dale McIntire (D.Min, Bethel Theological Seminary) has pastored Cornerstone Community Church for 28 years and is the author of Catching the Wind: A Guide for Interpreting Ecclesiastes. He is married to the originator of the Fighter Verses concept, Linda Fregeau McIntire. They share a like zeal for infusing the next generation with love for God’s Word.