Thursday, March 31, 2011

Proverbs 31 - An Example of Biblical Womanhood

Proverbs 31 has always been an inspiring chapter to me, but sometimes it can be difficult to see how it relates to our lives today . . . how do the activities that she is doing apply to us? How is it applicable? When hearing the question posed recently by a young lady asking what Proverbs 31 would look like lived out in our lives today, it got me to thinking and then to eventually write out some thoughts regarding it.

One thing that has been a help to me in regards to seeing the application to my own life, is to not look specifically at what she is doing, but the principles behind what she does. Which I hope makes sense! :) In Proverbs 31, some of the things that stand out to me are her industriousness, her lack of idleness, her servant heart, her willingness to work, and her good care of her home and of her family. There is so very much in this chapter, and here are just a few brief thoughts verse by verse:

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (vs. 10)

There will be more on this later. :)

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” (vs. 11)

She is trustworthy and loyal to her husband, and thus, he has full and complete confidence in her. She is a genuine helpmeet, and because of how she fulfills her role, her husband will have no lack of those things which are truly of value. A thought that comes to mind as far as actual physical lack, is that it would appear that she is frugal and a good manager of their finances and resources.

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (vs. 12)

While this can be considered specifically to be for married women, it is applicable to those of us who are unmarried as even now, by the character we are developing, the things we are learning, etc., we can be doing good to the husbands that the Lord may have for us in the future. This also implies a continual doing of good . . . as every single day of her life, she is doing him good.

She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.” (vs. 13)

This is one of my many favorite verses in Scripture, and simply for the last word in it: delight. How often that has come to mind as I am working on things around the house! (Scrubbing the bathtub/shower comes to mind . . . :) Here she is looking for labor to do, she is actively seeking, and the work of her hands is a delight to her. She delights in doing these labors as she possesses a servant heart, and she knows that she is fulfilling the role that God has given her as a wife and mother. 

This delight is defined as: eager willingness, great earnestness, cheerfully, and taking a high degree of pleasure in. As we go about our day to day household tasks whether it be doing the laundry or scrubbing the floors, may this be our heart as well!

She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.”(vs. 14)

She is resourceful and a planner . . . she is searching and looking for food. Perhaps this can be applicable to looking for ‘bargains’ in order to spend money wisely while providing food for her family.

She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.” (vs. 15)

One could never accuse this woman of being lazy, could they?! :) She seems to be very industrious and is looking to others’ needs above her own. She sacrifices her own comfort to arise early to make sure that her family is well cared for and provided for.

She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard” (vs. 16)

From what is shared here, it appears that she is an entrepreneur given her purchase of land and then planting a vineyard. This also indicates long term goals and planning as a vineyard would take many years before it would begin to produce fruit. She also is a manager of finances. And she must manage well in order to have the money available to purchase the land.

She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” (vs. 17)

This verse seems to indicate that she cares well for her body both through exercise and through what she eats, and that she has the physical strength necessary to perform her daily labors . . . there is also a principle of spiritual strength as well.

She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.” (vs. 18)

She rests in contentment knowing that her labor is producing fruit which is good. The last part, though, is still a bit of a puzzle to me . . . one idea that someone once shared with me is that often a candle was left burning in the window as a sign of welcome to a passerby who may be needing shelter. Or again, it could be an indicator of her industry.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff and her hands grasp the spindle.” (vs. 19)

Again, she is a woman of industry as she seeks to provide for the needs of her family through providing clothing and coverings for them.

She extends her hands to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” (vs. 20)

Here the passage seems to take a shift as the focus moves from first, her husband, and then second, her family, to now thirdly, towards others outside of her family. She sees needs and seeks to meet those needs, she has a heart of service, love and of generosity towards those in need. And I would imagine that this would not only be physical needs, but spiritual as well. “Extending her hands” is also an indicator of a sign of welcoming, and in another sense, stretching out to give a gift.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” (vs. 21-22)

Again, those of her household are well provided for through her foresight and labor of love as she worked to provide for their needs; and she was prepared in advance. Her clothing being made of fine linen and purple suggests not just a ho-hum effort and sloppy work, but care and beauty in what she makes. One thing that also stood out to me in this is that first her household is clothed, and then she provides for herself. The unselfish, giving heart of this woman again shines through.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.” (vs. 23-34)

She has a home business through which she sells the work of her hands . . . and it comes after her family and household have been well cared for and provided for. She uses her skills and talents to help earn an income and be a helper to her husband.

The passage continues with pointing out her trust and joy in looking to the future and her lack of fear and worry for she trusts in the Lord and knows that she has provided as well as she can for the needs of her family (vs. 25.) She is also clothed with dignity and strength, and it is shared that the words that flow from her mouth are words of wisdom and the teaching of kindness (vs. 26.) 

She is one who “looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness” (vs. 27.) Idle is in part to be slothful, avoiding work, not doing the tasks that you need to be doing, and being lazy. Instead of being idle, though, she willingly and joyfully serves her family and cares well for her household . . . in providing food, providing clothing, and I would imagine, caring for the cleaning, laundry, and other household tasks . . . and she does these tasks well.

Perhaps what stands out to me the most, though, about this chapter in Proverbs is found in verse 10 where it mentions her “excellence” or her being “virtuous.” Virtuous is something that is internal through which her actions, words, behavior, etc. flow from. It is having the virtues of God in her life . . . she is living and exemplifying the character that God has called her as a woman to have. When I think about that, the things that come to mind are the instruction given elsewhere in Scripture which speak of the character of a godly woman . . .

~A gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4)
~Sober/Dignified (1 Timothy 3:11)
~Sensible (Titus 2:5)
~Pure (Titus 2:5)
~Submissive (1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:5, etc.)
~Kind (Titus 2:5)
~Reverent in behavior (Titus 2:3)
~Respectful (1 Peter 3:2)
~Gracious (Proverbs 11:16)
~Loving of husband and children (Titus 2:4)
~Modest (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
~Teaching what is good (Titus 2:3)
~Faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11)
~Not contentious (Proverbs 25:24, 21:19; etc.)
~Not a gossip (Titus 2:3; 1 Timothy 3:11)
~Temperate (1 Timothy 3:11)
~Having discretion (Proverbs 11:22)

Just reading through this list convicts my heart!

And one more to add to that list, and what is the summation of Proverbs 31, is being a woman who fears the Lord (vs 31) . . .

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30.)

This is the part that convicts me the very most as it is foundational to all of the other things mentioned in this chapter . . . and all of the other instruction given by God in His Word to women . . . it is the very heart of the matter and that is our personal relationship with our God and Father. This fear of the Lord is a deep reverence and awe for the almighty and holy God, our Savior and Redeemer. 

And how very important it is for us to cultivate our relationship with Him! To humble ourselves before Him and honor Him as God. To earnestly seek to love Him and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And then to cultivate and strive after all of the many attributes that He desires us to have in our lives . . . including this beautiful chapter of Proverbs 31.

-Posted by Sarah