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There have been hundreds and hundreds of books and articles written on the Proverbs 31 woman. Many of us have probably heard those verses too many times to count. However, like any scripture, it must be "chewed" on, meditated upon, and processed over and over so that it can permeate our daily lives. I want to work through some of these verses and share my thoughts on them...and as always, I look forward to hearing yours!
I have heard so many women get frustrated as they read these verses...feeling like they could never live up to the "standard" that is set forth in this passage for a godly woman and mother. But take heart and don't be discouraged! These are words of encouragement...to uplift and guide you in your journey...not a list of rules. So read on with an open heart and let God speak to you where you need it the most. Bring Good, Not Harm
v. 11-12 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. v. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
In the early days of my marriage, I decided that I would never speak harshly about my husband in the presence of others. Not even in jest. No matter how frustrated or annoyed I might be with a situation, it was between Matt, myself, and God. I didn't run to my girlfriends, my co-workers, my mom, or the message boards. I spoke directly to Matt about my feelings and also to God. And in 7 years of marriage, we have never had a "fight" that lasted more than a few minutes. We never go to bed angry. I attribute those things largely to the fact that I focus on "bringing him good, not harm". I don't talk to others about our home life and let harsh feelings brew and brew all day.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you are in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, you must speak with someone about it. And if you and your spouse cannot get past certain issues, you may need counseling with a third party. But those interventions are very different than speaking with others about him and bringing him "down" in their eyes. Build him up! Help others to see him for the amazing man that he is.
I also want him to be confident in my abilities to run our household whenever he is away. If he knows that he doesn't have to worry about what is going on at home, then he is free to focus on the other important things in his life.
v. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. v. 16 She considers a field and buys it;out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. v. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In our consumerist society, we are constantly fighting against messages of "buy me!" and "pay later!". These three verses are each speaking against impulse spending and frivolous purchases and calling us to shop wisely with consideration, eager hands, and resourcefulness. We can apply these verses to our life whether we are grocery shopping, browsing eBay, or trading services. A few ways that we can do this:
- Make a grocery list and menu plan before going to the store.
- Stretch what you have and "make do".
- Plan ahead.
v. 15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her women servants.
I've posted about this before, but for my own sake, I need to talk about it again. This is something that FEELS almost impossible for me to master. When I was in college, I went through a phase of about 6 months where I was getting up every day at 5:30 a.m. and reading the Word...preparing for the day ahead. It was an amazingly sweet time of fellowship with Christ and I benefited greatly. However, since getting married and having a child, this discipline of getting up early has eluded me. There is just no comparison between having your quiet time in the early morning hours and having it later in the day. It is a battle with my flesh to get up early...especially if I have stayed up late.
This verse doesn't speak directly about getting up early to pray or meet God, but I am assuming that this is a given. She gets up while it is still night (BEFORE) the rest of her family and feeds HER soul first so she can then feed her family (body and soul). E.M. Bounds, a pastor who was born in 1835, wrote one of my favorite passages on the discipline to rise early:
"A desire for God which cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing and will do but little good for God after it has indulged itself fully. The desire for God that keeps so far behind the devil and the world at the beginning of the day will never catch up.
It is not simply the getting up that puts men to the front and makes them captain generals in God's hosts, but it is the ardent desire which stirs and breaks all self-indulgent chains. But the getting up gives vent, increase, and strength to the desire. If they had lain in bed and indulged themselves, the desire would have been quenched. The desire aroused them and put them on the stretch for God, and this heeding and acting on the call gave their faith its grasp on God and gave to their hearts the sweetest and fullest revelation of God..."
This man is completely amazing. The "chains of sleep"? Oh yes. I can realate. Read more of his thoughts on prayer here. Several other authors have fueled my desire to rise early over the years. Becky Tirabassi, author of Let Prayer Change Your Life (you all must read this!), made a vow to God that she would get up early and pray for one hour every day for the rest of her life. She has an amazing story. Another woman, Laine, is a beautiful woman of God and she writes "letters of encouragement" to other Christian women. She speaks extensively on this topic...in a very convicting fashion!
Jesus modeled getting up early to pray over and over...along with other disciples. This is one of the disciplines I am actively working on in my life right now, and I would love to hear those of you who have "mastered" it! I take comfort in knowing that because it's something that is God's will for me and that He will be pleased with, He will not hesitate to answer my cries of "HELP ME GET UP LORD!". Work Vigorously
v. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
The definition of "vigor" is "energetic activity; energy; intensity". I want to apply this to my life immediately. When it's time to do dishes, I want to do it with INTENSITY! When it's time for laundry, I want to do it with great ENERGY! Not only will it get done faster, but it will be a great workout, which completes the rest of the verse. My arms will be STRONG for my tasks. If I can do housework in a speedy fashion, I will have less need to work out every day because it will come naturally. I like it.
Be Generous To All
v. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends hands to the needy.
A generous woman is a beautiful woman...one who is constantly looking to help people. Looking for opportunities to bless others. When it speaks about the "needy"...it doesn't necessarily mean someone needing money. It could be a friend who just needs a word of encouragement. "Extend your hands" today to someone who needs help...whether it be someone on the street or someone in your family. Clothe and Take Care of Your Family
v. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothes in scarlet.
Basically, take care of the needs of your family. Clothe them. Feed them...be prepared FOR them. Make sure there is enough food on hand. Have a plan for the day. If you see clothes that will fit your child next year for 25 cents...buy them. If they are "scarlet"...that's even better. :) hee hee... Be Crafty and Make Your Home a Haven
v. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothes in fine linen and purple. v. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
Not everyone is blessed with the desire to "make" things...but I think these verses go beyond just "sewing" and making things. Just the fact that she is making things leads me to believe she is concerned about the "feel" of her home. We are called as wives and women to make our homes inviting, cozy, and wonderful to be in. It's part of the way we can bless our family and our husband...creating a haven for him to come home to every night.
Laugh At The Future
v. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Wow. This is one of my favorite verses. To be clothed with strength and dignity is an amazing picture of a Godly woman. Think about the Christian women in your life...I'm sure you can pick out a few that embody this description...I know I can. Even amidst life's difficult times, they can still LAUGH at the days to come. I recently heard John Piper speak about this verse...and he said that this type of woman is not naive...she KNOWS that there is difficulty ahead, but she can still look to the future with HOPE. Here is an excerpt from his sermon (which you all should go listen to or watch). Powerful stuff:
The deepest root of Christian womanhood mentioned in this text is hope in God. “Holy women who hoped in God.” A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks. She puts her hope in the promises of God. She is described in Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” She laughs at everything the future will bring and might bring, because she hopes in God.
She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases. She knows her Bible, and she knows her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and help her strengthen her no matter what. This is the deep, unshakable root of Christian womanhood. And Peter makes it explicit in verse 5. He is not talking about just any women. He is talking about women with unshakable biblical roots in the sovereign goodness of God—holy women who hope in God.
Speak With Wisdom
v. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
I went to the commentaries for this one...
Matthew Henry: She not only takes prudent measures herself, but gives prudent advice to others. The law of love and kindness is written in the heart, and shows itself in the tongue. John Wesley: She is neither sullenly silent, nor full of impertinent talk, but speaks discreetly and piously, as occasion offers. In her tongue - Her speeches are guided by wisdom and grace, and not by inordinate passions. And this practice is called a law in her tongue, because it is constant and customary, and proceeds from an inward and powerful principle of true wisdom.
The tongue is a powerful thing...especially one wielded by a woman. It's very easy to use it for harm and not for good. I pray that my words would be full of wisdom and grace, not "impertinent talk". Every word is counted in heaven...have I said anything today that I would not want to have "counted" by Christ? Watch Over Your Household and Don't Be Lazy
v. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Another great commentary by Matthew Henry: Her heart is full of another world, even when her hands are most busy about this world.
Wow. It is possible to be overwhelmingly busy running your household and still have a heart focused on God. I love the phrase "watches over the affairs of her household". A woman of God will know what's going on. She knows when she's out of dish soap and she does something about it. She knows when her children need her undivided attention...she knows when something needs to be taken care of...she just KNOWS.
Now...for the next part. Eating the bread of idleness. An interesting word play for me...because I LOVE bread. Bread is tasty. Bread smells good. Bread is warm. But too much bread is bad for my body. Just as too much idleness is bad for my household, my spiritual life, and my family. Two other verses come to mind regarding this:
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us...yes, establish the work of our hands.
God wants to help you be productive. He wants to help you effectively "run" your household. He wants to show you HIS plan for your day...but you must let Him. Pray that He will reveal that plan...even if it's at the expense of YOUR plan. Be Praised
v.28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
If you are striving to be a woman of God...focusing on all of things things talked about here...your family should be happy! They will be happy because they will be taken care of, fed and clothed...and the household will be running smoothly. There is no greater joy for me in earthly endeavors than to have Matt praise me for how I am doing as a wife and mother.
Beauty Is Fleeting
v. 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
We live in a nation obsessed with looks. Hair, nails, clothes...how much time did you spend today making sure that all of that was how you wanted? I hope that we can all spend MORE time with God each day than we do getting ready in the morning. Piper had wonderful words on this from the same sermon that I linked to above:
And this leads to a third feature of Peter’s portrait of womanhood, a focus on internal adornment, rather than external. First Peter 3:5 begins, “This is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.” This adornment refers back to what is described in verses 3-4:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
We know this does not mean that all jewelry and all hair styling is excluded because then all clothing would be excluded as well, because it says, “Don’t let your adorning be external . . . the clothing you wear.” What he means is: Don’t focus your main attention and effort on how you look on the outside; focus it on the beauty that is inside. Exert more effort and be more concerned with inner beauty than outer beauty.
And he is specific in verse 4. When a woman puts her hope in God and not her husband and not in her looks, and when she overcomes fear by the promises of God, this will have an effect on her heart: It will give her an inner tranquility. That’s what Peter means in verse 4 by “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
I bolded the part that I really like. Our MAIN attention in life should be inner beauty: getting to know who your heavenly father is...learning His will and studying His word. If you can do that, it will transform you from the inside out and will affect much more than just you. It will affect your family, your friends, and everyone you come into contact with.
There is a book that I have been reading consistantly over the years and it has had a profound impact on my views of womanhood and motherhood. It's called "A Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George. I am going to devote an entire post to this one book because I know that many will benefit from her words. If you've ever wondered or struggled with the "submission" part of a Christian marriage, stay tuned :) In the meantime, I will leave you with a passage from that book called "The Heart of the Homemaker". My post on the book will go into more depth, but I felt that it coincided well with my desire to be a Proverbs 31 woman:
The Heart of the Homemaker
- I will get up before my family, in order to prepare myself spiritually and physically.
- I will prepare breakfast for my family and sit with them while they eat.
- I will work diligently to send every member of my family off in a good mood.
- I will consult my husband every day to see if there is anything special he wants me to do for him.
- I will keep a neat and orderly home.
- I will respond positively.
- I will meet my husband's needs.
- I will put my husband before my children.
- I will personally meet and greet each family member as he or she returns home.
- I wlil be predictibly happy.
- I will prepare special, good food for my family.
- I will make dinner a special time.
- I will grow DAILY in the areas of Lord, marriage, family, and homemaking.
She wraps it up by saying...
Is yours the heart of a homemaker? If not, ask God for His transforming touch. As He empowers you to obey, He will give you JOY at the task to which He calls you and enhance the beauty of the tapestry you are weaving.
I'm off to ask God to TRANSFORM me and make me JOYFUL about my alarm clock ringing at 5:00 a.m....wheeeee! Bring on the coffee!