Week by week, verse by verse, we’ve been studying through Proverbs 31 and the portrait it paints of a virtuous woman. She is a woman we want to copy, and I certainly wish I could have seen her in action.
Do you remember how these Proverbs are an acrostic, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet? Knowing this helps me understand why it seems to hop around through various topics.
We’ve covered the topic of this woman working from her own home. Proverbs 31 mentions her entreprenuerial skills many times:
“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night” (Proverbs 31:18).
“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff” Proverbs 31:19).
It looks as if her main occupations were her vineyard and her sewing. What amazes me is that these are both very time-consuming jobs!
But today’s verse most clearly describes her money-making efforts. She makes fine linen, then she sells it, then she delivers it.
I searched through many articles online about this verse. You see, this verse really is a puzzle. We can see how much of a priority this woman’s home and family were. We know how devoted she was to her husband. We know that her children rise up and call her blessed.
But how did she do all that… and still find time to maintain vineyards and a business?
Even more complexing, did she only work from the four walls of her home, or did she venture out into the “career world”? Do these verses tell us that women can have a career? Should they only work from home?
I don’t want to cause controversy, but I have to be honest with you. I’ve been perplexed over these same issues for my entire married life. When I was first married, before I had any children, I worked full time as an office worker to help my husband pay for college.
Even later, after my children were born, I often worked from my own home in an effort to help my family out financially.
Yet I’ve often felt very guilty about “working.” The largest pressure NOT to work seems to come from the Internet, especially from those within the homeschooling movement.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I strongly believe that men and women are created equal but have different roles.
- Women were created by God to be suitable helpers to their husbands (Genesis 2:18).
- God’s Word also makes it clear that “young” women (under the age of 60) are to be involved in managing their homes, keeping their marriages and children a top priority (1 Timothy 5:11-15).
- Women are to be taught by the older women to “be busy at home” (Titus 2:5). This command has implications for both older and younger women, since the younger women have to make their homes a priority and the older women have to allocate time to be teachers to the younger women.
The Proverbs 31 woman watched over the affairs of her household (verse 27), made her husband a top priority (verse 11), and was praised by her children (verse 28). It’s very likely that she didn’t do ALL the things listed in this poem EVERY day. There were likely seasons of her life during which she could devote more time to running a business rather than changing diapers.
So should a woman work? In my book, Juggling Life’s Responsibilities, I contend that women should not work but should live in contentment on their husband’s income. I’m starting to realize that it was a bit hypocritical of me to write that when I myself was writing a book in my spare moments so that I could bring in a little extra income.
In today’s economy, more and more women are being asked to work, just to make ends meet. Does this mean that God isn’t providing our needs anymore? No! God is always the source of our income. Proverbs 31 is showing me that sometimes the way He supplies is through a gracious wife who works beside her husband to bring in extra income, to relieve his fatigue with her unique talents and abilities.
Yes, our Proverbs 31 woman was careful to make her home and family the top priorities in her life. After that, in her “spare time,” she was industrious and wise, planting vineyards and selling fine linen to the merchants.
“Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value” (Proverbs 31:11, NIV).
“Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:31, NIV).
P.S. Two opposing views I found online can be read at: