The first four verses of Proverbs 31: 10-31 alone were packed with so many concepts that it could take a woman of God weeks, and maybe even months, to fully work through them and put them into practice. Let’s add even more concepts to the mix, shall we?
As we once again listen in on the dialogue between our Proverbs 31 woman and today’s modern woman, we might hear today’s woman asking the question, “What in the world does ‘being like merchant ships’ have to do with me in my life today? That’s something that doesn’t even click with me logically” (v. 14). In response, our Proverbs 31 woman might respond with the following advice:
There is a concept here that may seem ancient and void of meaning in today’s world, but actually, it can still apply. Merchant ships went around seeking the best goods at the best prices, and after finding those things, brought them from far off places. Today’s equivalent to this is shopping around for the best bargains.
Today’s economy is getting worse. With the rise in gas prices has also come a rise in the prices of food and other necessary items. One of the wisest things a woman can do for her family is to shop smart. This may require combing the fliers in the paper, clipping coupons, and, when possible, buying different items at different stores. It may also mean buying clearance rack items, items on sale, and even shopping at goodwill stores. It may be a difficult process to begin, but in the end, shopping smart can become a habit that will save money for the entire family.
Not only does the Proverbs 31 woman work at saving money, but she is also a woman who is industrious in every other area of life. Verse fifteen indicates that she is an early riser for the purpose of preparing and serving meals to those in her household. This is an unheard of concept in today’s world. Many women scoff at the notion of getting up to fix their husband breakfast and roll their eyes at the suggestion of packing his lunch. Drive-throughs have replaced home-cooked meals and packaged cookies have taken the place of warm goodies right out of the oven.
This is not to condemn women that lead busy lives and are unable to prepare home cooked meals and snacks for their families. Thankfully, when the pace of life becomes more than we can bear, we do have options to fall back on to get us through. However, a goal to strive for, especially for a stay-at-home wife and mom, would be to prepare and serve your family home-cooked goodness.
This passage indicates that the Proverbs 31 woman has great business sense. Although this many seem far-fetched to women who tend to be more relational in nature than business-oriented, they still can practice good business sense. Good business sense may be accomplished in as simple a task as budgeting the family finances, or it may be as complicated as managing her husband’s business. Whatever the scenario, even a rudimentary sense of wise spending and saving is all a part of being a Proverbs 31 woman.
Verse seventeen, surprisingly enough, seems to suggest this woman works out. Who would have thought that exercising would be in the Bible? To insert a note of caution here, this does not mean the main goal of a woman’s life should be getting fit and being as slender as possible. Be careful not to take this verse to the extreme, as our culture so readily promotes.
The Bible speaks in other places, this very chapter included, of the deception of outward beauty and appearance, and we must guard against that being our main pursuit. At the same time, however, there is something to be said for taking care of the bodies God gave us. This can be done with our eating habits as well as some form of daily exercise. Exercise not only helps us take care of our bodies, but it can also be a great stress reliever and a natural energizer.
As the passage goes on, it is apparent that the Proverbs 31 is a hard worker, providing clothes for her family. Sewing is a lost art today, and not everyone has the ability to purchase a sewing machine or learn how to sew. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make a run for your local JoAnne fabrics for sewing classes. Instead, it is the concept in this verse that seems to indicate this woman works hard and steadily all day long. As a result, she is not only satisfied with the results of her labor, she is confident that the results are good.
Another note of caution needs to be inserted here. These verses state that this woman gets up early and goes to bed late. For the women who push themselves until there is no more push left, these verses only seem to confirm their drive. However, be careful to not get caught in the trap of unnecessary tasks. By this I mean that there is a schedule that a woman needs to keep to keep her home organized and running smoothly, as God calls her to do, and then there is a schedule that is created out of a woman’s own “oughts” and “shoulds” that has nothing to do with God’s plan for her life.
If you are one of those women who is always going, always doing, always feeling like there is one more thing to do, stop and really think through which of those tasks are tasks you have put upon yourself and which are tasks that God has genuinely called you to accomplish. It is far too easy to get caught up in a “poor me, I’m so busy” mentality, when the truth of the matter is, we’re busy doing our own “shoulds,” while our Father is standing by attempting to offer us His rest.
I would also point out that staying up late is for the purpose of working, not because of late night television watching. This is not the time or place to get in a discussion about television, but I would be remiss to mention that a helpful experiment might show how much TV affects your life: for one week turn off your TV.
During those hours that you would normally be watching TV, do everything else that you can never seem to get done. At the end of the week evaluate how much more sleep you were able to get, how many more tasks seemed to get accomplished, and how much more refreshed you felt in the morning when you got up.
The Proverbs 31 woman also reaches out to those who are having a hard time. This may be a financial reaching out with the money that she has been able to set aside because of wise financial stewardship, or it may be time that she gives once a week at the local woman’s shelter. This giving may be in the form of opening up her home to women that are young in the Christian faith and need discipleship, or it may be as quick and simple as noticing the cashier bagging her groceries and really asking her how she is. However it is accomplished, this woman is others-centered and gives to those around her.
Because of this woman’s hard work, she is fully prepared for winter. In other words, she is prepared for those times of life that are not as abundant as other times. At first reading it would seem this is because she has made clothing for herself and her household, but taken a bit further it can mean more.
This woman is prepared for hard financial times because she has been spending money wisely before the hard times hit. This woman is ready for her kids’ needing the next size of clothing because she bought clothes on clearance several months ago and has them on hand for the next growth spurt. This woman is ready for the winter months when produce is expensive because she has gardened and stored fruits and vegetables.
In short, this woman, while she does not fear the future, is prepared for the future with wise planning and hard work.
These verses seem to also imply that this woman dresses nicely. This may come as a surprise because it seems that many times we believe that Christians should dress plainly and without beauty. And yet, the words “silk” and “purple” in verse twenty-two indicate nice looking clothes.
Just like the implication of early rising and late bedtimes, this concept too, needs balance. I Peter 3: 3-4 tells us that our beauty and self-worth is not to come from our outward appearance. The end of Proverbs 31 tells us the same thing. And yet, we have a God of beauty who loves His daughters and He does not desire us to pursue ugliness in the name of godliness. We can seek beauty and nice clothes, if we can do so in the context of wise spending habits and proper focus of our inner person. Feel free to have the freedom to wear pretty clothes and look your best, but at the same time be cautious in not getting your self-esteem from your clothes and how your hair and makeup turn out each day.
This all seems like a lot to remember and live out each day. It seems too much in fact, and completely overwhelming, but don’t become discouraged.
Remember that becoming a Proverbs 31 woman is not something you need to achieve in your own strength. You have the Spirit of God living inside of you and if you will surrender your life to Him each and every day, He will develop these characteristics in you on a daily basis.
As you surrender to Him every day, be prepared to be surprised at the financial savvy you didn’t know you had, the emotional energy to take that unexpected phone call from the weeping neighbor, and the physical stamina to get that homemade supper fixed at the end of a long day, all because the Holy Spirit enabled you.
“God, who has called you, is faithful, who will also help you accomplish it.” ( I Thessalonians 5:24)