Whatsoever Magazine

In Pursuit of Virtue

Posted on: October 10, 2006

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.

WHAT does it mean to be a virtuous woman? What is virtue? These are the questions I asked myself embarking on the study of this topic. Virtue… To me, it’s always been one of those beautiful old-fashioned words rich with significance, an inspirational hanger-on from the days of chivalry, a code, a collection of principles. But when I sat down to really think through the subject of virtue, I found I could not give myself a complete definition of it. I did not know what virtue was, specifically, nor how it could be obtained. And so, with pen in hand, I set out to find the answers to my questions.

ONE of the first discoveries I made was that virtue is a rare word in the Bible. Strong’s Concordance claims that the word virtue itself [1] only appears seven times in the King James version. The adjective form of virtue, virtuous, appears just three times–and always in reference to woman. Does the Lord wants us as young women to learn about virtue? I think so!

HOW important is virtue, and its cultivation? 2 Peter 1:3 reveals that it is very important, that it is not cimply an elective in our walk of faith, but a calling. This passage says that God ‘hath called us to glory and virtue.’ And just a few verses later, in 2 Peter 1:5, Peter exhorts us to give all diligence to adding virtue to our faith. Can the strength of that exhortation be fully understood in just one reading? We are called to give all diligence, to give a lifetime, to give energy and devotion, to the cultivation of virtue. It follows the gift of faith as one of the major steps in our walk with God.

THE second discovery that emerged through my study was the original meaning of the Hebrew word for virtue [2]. The word is chayil [khah-yil] and literally means a force, whether or men, means, or resources. What then is Old Testament virtue, simply translated into a one-word definition? It is strength. Strength. Think of it. Matthew Henry takes this literal meaning and applies it to the verse we are studying, calling the virtuous woman a ‘woman of strength’. Doesn’t the title itself sound grand–and inspirational? Truly, to become a woman of strength is a noble and beautiful calling, a life’s work worthy of our unending diligence.

HOWEVER, it is easy to say one thing and to wish we could become that which we speak of, but, contrary to the popular opinion of those gathered round the birthday cake crying, “Make a wish! Make a wish!” nothing ever came of wishes. We cannot become women of strength simply by hoping to be so. Hopes are nothing if they do not lead somewhere. But if we channel these hopes into wholehearted prayers and give them over to our Lord and King, then we are taking the first steps in our quest for virtue. The Word says that without Him we can do nothing, that every good and perfect gift is from above [3], and that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. It would be foolishness to think that we could become women of strength and virtue without Him. He is the ‘force’ behind true strength. We do not simply need His help to complete our quest for virtue. We need Him to do the work! Therefore, to become women of virtue, we must be grounded in Him.

THEN, trusting Him as the Source behind the force (do you think it’ll catch on?), we can fill our minds and hearts with all that virtuous womanhood contains. This means: making a study of virtuous women (Ruth is a beautiful example and is called ‘a virtuous woman’), looking carefully at the strengths of the Proverbs 31 woman, reading New and Old Testament references to virtue, seeing what the virtuous woman does not do (Proverbs is full of examples!), and having an open and accountable heart before our Father and our family. The family is a fertile field for the cultivation of virtue. Within such a compact unit we can find almost all we need to confront those flaws within us which hinder the growth of virtue and discover, too, the earthly rewards of obedience to Him that are just a tiny foreshadowing of all that awaits, in the finaly Home, those that are faithful cultivators of virtue here. Give all diligence to this task!

By Danielle Carey
Notes: [1] Thus translated from the Hebrew and Greek; there are other quotations of the same Hebrew or Greek root elsewhere in the Bible, but given a different translation; [2] Used in the Old Testament. Peter’s word, from the Greek, has a slightly different meaning; [3] James 1:17; [4] Philippians 4:13.
[originally published in Volume 6 #1/2 of Whatsoever Magazine]

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