Would the Proverbs 31 Woman go to College or (Gasp!) Get a Tattoo?

When I read “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos”, I immediately knew why I didn’t marry until I was 39, even though I wanted to get an MRS with my BA. My problem: I went to college, where I was taught to be “independent, loud, and immodest,” according to author Lori Alexander. My alma mater, Grove City College, though Christian, was often considered liberal.

Not only did I go to college, but then I went to seminary, and finally to graduate school. And now, I teach at Nyack College, which is majority women. Though we offer much financial support, almost all graduate with debt.

But, get this: I was debt-free, a virgin, and had no tattoos (though I often considered getting a flowery vine on my toe). I worked hard and had some parental help to pay for my undergrad, graduated debt-free, and taught at Asuncion Christian Academy in Paraguay, South America. That was probably too independent for Alexander, who thinks it would have been better for me to be protected by my father in his house until marriage.

I graduated from seminary with around $1500 in debt, which I promptly paid through the next year, and I graduated with a PhD debt-free (There are a lot of “Thank God! and thank Nyack College!” reasons for that one).

Therefore, Alexander would likely conclude it was my education that made me less preferable to men.

There is so much to disagree with in her article, starting with a need for clear reasoning behind her ideas. It pains me that her blog has rendered response from sources like ScaryMommy and MSN because now, again, people will think that all Christians agree with her.

Here’s the thing: I think controlling Christian men want exactly what Alexander states. And I think that’s part of the reason I didn’t marry until later. The greater part was that God’s plans are slower (and better) than mine.

I am a woman who resists control. And that’s not attractive to controlling Christian men.

I teach biblical and theological studies. They did not want to be with a woman who knows more about the Bible than they do. How could they be the “head” if they weren’t the more knowledgeable (and possibly therefore more powerful)?

What exactly “head” means in the Bible is a conversation for another day, but I think it’s what Alexander refers to when she states that husbands need to teach their wives “the correct way to act and think” and that “women have not been taught to live in submission to their husbands.” That’s what she thinks male headship is.

Last time I checked, we were all called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 3:21), and it’s primarily Scripture that teaches the Christian how to think and act, not a husband.

Last time I checked, we were all called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 3:21), and it’s primarily Scripture that teaches the Christian how to think and act, not a husband. Click To Tweet

It’s part of our fallen human nature to think it’s better to be in control than in partnership. Genesis 1-3 narrates original partnership and stewardship of creation (1:26ff), distorted by independent action and controlling hierarchy (chapter 3). As a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we are empowered to be in partnership as God intended, empowered to be our authentic selves (even if that means we think differently), even in marriage.

It’s part of our fallen human nature to think it’s better to be in control than in partnership. Click To Tweet

Don’t get me wrong. I’m for sexual intercourse only in marriage. I also think that raising a family, not working outside the home, avoiding debt, and not going to college are great choices. They are not the ones I made, but we each get to live different lives, don’t we? When we hold up one way as ideal and disparage others, we miss living our story well.

So, back to my original question: would the Proverbs 31 woman go to college or get a tattoo? Clearly, women like her are desirable to men (they all want to find a “wife of noble character”).

Honestly? I don’t know. At the time Proverbs was written, there was no college and Israelites didn’t get tattoos because tattoos had to do with worship of the dead (Lev. 19:28). Thus, any idea about what a Proverbs 31 woman would do now is purely conjecture.

But would you allow me a bit of conjecture?

I’d say she’d probably go to college. I mean, she’s a provider. Where else would she learn to be an amazing businesswoman who selects wool and flax (13), runs a vineyard (16), trades (18—is this the stock market?), and sells the garments she makes (24)?

Maybe the Proverbs 31 woman would even get an MBA.

She also speaks with wisdom and faithfully instructs others (26), perhaps with ideas learned in college. Liberal Arts majors learn to think and often to teach.

Would she have debt from college?

Maybe, but her wise business dealings would turn profit that pays it off (even as she takes care of her kids and household).

What about a tattoo?

I think she’d be free to get one. Tattoos today have little to do with worship of the dead, so they are not unbiblical. They tend to be a form of self-expression or a way to remember important events or even biblical truths. Her personal preference would determine whether she had one (or two or three. . . )

(Okay, I just giggled as I pictured the Proverbs 31 woman with a colorful tattoo sleeve.)

So many think Alexander’s article limits women. Sure it does. But it also mischaracterizes most men. It paints Christian men as shallow and controlling (only worrying about virginity, babies, submission, and debt).

The men I know and respect are more worried about integrity, honesty, compatibility, and stability in a potential spouse. For men of integrity, character certainly outweighs physical things like debt, a sexual past, or tattoos. They are the men I like to be around.

The men I know and respect are more worried about integrity, honesty, compatibility, and stability in a potential spouse. For men of integrity, character certainly outweighs physical things like debt, a sexual past, or tattoos. Click To Tweet

So, women, I encourage you to be who you’ve been created to be. If that’s a woman raising a family at home, that doesn’t mean you have a controlling husband. It simply means that’s who you believe God’s created you to be.

Be a single pastor, be a college professor, be an artist, be a nurturer—figure out who you are and follow God’s individual call for yourself.

And finally, be a college-educated and tattooed Proverbs 31 woman, if you want. I know a lot like you.

Be a college-educated and tattooed Proverbs 31 woman, if you want. Click To Tweet

(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)

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