Volume 13, Issue 1: Femina
"And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman" (Ruth 3:11).
Ruth was known throughout her community as a virtuous woman. This is rather an archaic term for us today because few people even have a category for virtue. If you take a walk through a department store, especially through the junior section that caters to teenagers, you will see that virtue is indeed out of fashion. The reason many young women dress like prostitutes today is because that is what is "in style." Short skirts with slits that go up way too high, tight t-shirts that stop several inches too short (that are recommended worn with pants that begin way too low, flashing belly and back). And shirts worn too tight, too low, half unbuttoned on the top, and half unbuttoned on the bottom, making us wonder what the buttons are for anyway. Nasty looking clothes and even nasty looking shoes. The last thing women in America today want to be known for is virtue. How stupid to be thought a virgin, or worse, to look like one. But this is the way the world always has been, and it should really not be such a surprise to us.
Isaiah describes the haughty daughters of Zion (chapter 3) who flaunt themselves in similar ways. What should surprise us is when the Christian sisters imitate the stupidity of the world. Christian women, of all women on earth, ought to think and dress and act in a manner that is completely contrary to the world. Paul tells us (Romans 12:2) not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Virtue for us should be a delight to think about, to strive for, to lay hold of. We should long to identify with Ruth and be the kind of women who are known in our families and in our communities as virtuous.
What does it mean to be a virtuous woman today? Though times may change, God's Word does not, so it means the same today as it did in Ruth's day. Being virtuous is being holy, righteous, upright, pure. We are declared righteous in Christ, and we are given virtue in our justification: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ's excellence and virtue and perfection is exchanged for our sinfulness, and we are made righteous in Him. This is the gift we receive in our justification. We are perfect in Christ because Christ is perfect, not because we are.
Our sanctification, being an on-going process fitting us for heaven, requires our diligence, by means of the Holy Spirit, in pursuing righteousness in our thoughts, our speech, our lives. A virtuous woman is one who is known in the Christian community for her high moral standard; she believes the Bible and applies it to herself. She does not cut corners, make exceptions, or excuse sinful behavior. She delights in righteousness and seeks to obey Paul's command "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2). Ruth could have left Naomi for her own people who did not fear God, but she chose to stay with her mother-in-law, which meant following Naomi's God. A virtuous woman leaves the world to follow after Christ, even if it means leaving the good opinion of family and friends.
A virtuous woman is eager to be taught God's Word, to learn wisdom, and to apply all she learns. She wants to know, she wants to be virtuous because it is the means of glorifying God. So a virtuous woman is a learner and a doer. It is not enough, James tells us, to be hearers only. Paul prays the Colossians (1:10) will "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." This increase of knowledge comes passively as she receives godly instruction, but also actively as she walks in the good works God has prepared for her. This is being fruitful, which also increases knowledge.
Walking worthy entails the high moral standard mentioned above. It means governing what we listen to, watch, or read, "denying ungodliness and worldy lusts" (Titus 2:12). This may include denying ourselves things we have come to enjoy very much. Where there has been compromise and slackness, it must be replaced with repentance and diligence. We cannot expect to walk worthy and be known for our virtue if we are filling our thoughts and time with ungodly and impure entertainments. We may have to deny such things verbally to friends who want us to listen to stupid music, read unchaste magazines, or watch immoral movies.
Living and walking worthy of Christ means dressing in modest, chaste clothing that is consistent with a life of virtue and godliness. This requires wisdom, and most young women don't want to exercise wisdom in this area. They care more about attracting attention from the young men than they care about pleasing God. Walking worthy means our behavior is governed by a desire to glorify God and obey Him in all things. It means actively pursuing virtue, not coasting. If we want to be known in our community as virtuous women, we must embrace God's standard of holiness in every area of our lives and reject every worldly standard that conflicts with this. Ruth was a relatively young woman when she was praised this way by Boaz. Young women need not think this is something for them to think about later. It is essential now.