Oh, if you could have been a fly in my house last night, as my husband and I discussed the ramifications of today’s verse.
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16, KJV).
It was made more interesting because I received a blog post from a fellow online businesswoman today. I’ll keep her identity private, because I’m not judging her for her decision, but this is the gist of what she wrote:
I always find it very stressful (on me and the family) when trying to work and attend to their needs at the same time. I am distracted and don’t always hear my kids asking for something—and then they’d get frustrated because they’d think I was ignoring them…
I realized I needed a dedicated work space and a dedicated time, so I started renting an office inside my mother-in-law’s travel agency. Yep, I’m renting an out-of-home office. Now, I go to the office three times per week and get work done. I do two full days and one half day—totaling approximately 20 hours per week and all during daytime hours. And although I miss my little baby and my youngest when he comes home from kindergarten, I’m fully dedicated to them when I come home.
This threw me, I’ll be honest! I understand completely what it’s like to juggle so many things at once — and to feel like I’m doing a terrible job at most of them. It would be very tempting to do exactly what this online friend has done, so that I can wear only one hat at a time.
Knowing that in the evening I was planning to write a post on the Proverbs 31 woman who planted a vineyard out of the earnings from a fields she had purchased earlier, in addition to the sewing business she owned (see verse 24), I was thrown into a tizzy! How could I write to over 500 women in my audience and tell them to add one more thing to their busy lives?! How can any of us measure up to this Proverbs 31 woman? (Imagine me pulling my hair out here….) How can we juggle so many things?
My husband says,
“Honey, the difference between now and back then is that today, women are trying to fit twice as many activities into half the time.”
Many times, my mother has said about the same thing.
“Back when I was a young mom, we didn’t have the Internet and all the things you girls do. We just weren’t as busy back then as you are now.”
Are any of you like me? I see the Proverbs woman, and I think that I need to be a wife, mom, prosperous business woman (TWO businesses!), fabulous homemaker—added to my already full schedule of homeschooling and activities with other believers.
Overwhelming. In a word, it’s overwhelming.
Let’s think about the verse for a minute.
- She considered a field before she bought it. Before she started up a business from home, way ahead of time, she realized that a garden would take an investment of time. She’s plotted out the space on paper, read books, and poured over seed catalogs. A garden, like any business, required time for planning. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision to start a business.
- Next, she had to buy the field. No credit cards back then. Her husband’s reputation (see verse 23) was too precious for her to get into some kind of debt she couldn’t pay back. No, she saved and saved for that field.
- She had to cultivate the field and actually grow something from it. Daily, consistent work, whether she was in the mood or not. This kind of work has to be done when the timing is right. She had a lot of discipline.
- The seasons (possible years) went by, and as her field gave her harvests, and she saved some more of the profits, her hands still working, her mind still patiently planning, she finally was able to reinvest the fruit from that field. She bought a vineyard. What a milestone!
- Vineyards usually came with servants. I think of the stories of vineyards and “husbandmen” that Yeshua told in the first century. The owners of vineyards certainly didn’t have time to do all the work themselves. They had “hired workers,” so here we would have seen this woman expanding her business and hiring employees. In other words, she didn’t try to do it all herself!
You know, a woman with an infant couldn’t have done this. It didn’t happen overnight. It took timing, planning, preparation, learning, cultivation, planting, waiting, harvesting—likely in a later season of her life.
Another thing about her “business.” She wasn’t required by the federal government to have her children in school for X number of hours each day. She didn’t have peer pressure about what activities her children should be involved in if they were to “succeed.” Rather, she would have been able to bring her children with her “to work,” especially back in the days when her field was just a garden plot outside her kitchen window. She could labor and make a little bit of spare change, keeping a close eye on her little ones all the while. Her labor slowly made her enough money to invest and develop her garden into a bigger enterprise. She used wisdom, living off her husband’s income to meet her family’s needs while slowing developing her assets.
My husbands adds,
“Then you come to the point where the wife is working herself to the bone and it’s not getting anywhere. The dishes aren’t done, the house isn’t clean, the wash isn’t done, the children are ignored. The husband feels depressed and wants to help, but the wife feels guilty, that she’s less of a wife because she didn’t get it all done around the house. All of this builds up friction between a husband and wife.”
Do you have answers, Honey? What should be done?
“Well, Anne, there is no such thing as perfection. Rich wives might not need extra income, but their situations aren’t perfect either. Kids are resilient. If the home is secure, they can roll with tough economic times.”
Maybe the resiliency is good for them? Is that what you’re saying?
So what are the non-negotiables? If a wife feels she must work (whether at home or away from home), what are the absolute minimums?
For this we looked at the entire chapter of Proverbs 31. He read it to me out of the Good News Bible, and it came to life when looked at in this way.
How hard it is to find a capable wife! She is worth far more than jewels!
Her husband puts his confidence in her, and he will never be poor.
As long as she lives, she does him good and never harm.
She keeps herself busy making wool and linen cloth.
She brings home food from out-of-the-way places, as merchant ships do.
She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family and to tell her servant women what to do.
She looks at land and buys it, and with money she has earned she plants a vineyard.
She is a hard worker, strong and industrious.
She knows the value of everything she makes, and works late into the night.
She spins her own thread and weaves her own cloth.
She is generous to the poor and needy.
She doesn’t worry when it snows, because her family has warm clothing.
She makes bedspreads and wears clothes of fine purple linen.
Her husband is well known, one of the leading citizens.
She makes clothes and belts, and sells them to merchants.
She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future.
She speaks with a gentle wisdom.
She is always busy and looks after her family’s needs.
Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her.
He says, “Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors YHVH should be praised.
Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone.
Okay, the non-negotiables:
- Husband and wife have to be agreed. After all, if he’s going to put his full confidence in her, they must be together in every thought, every goal, every plan and ambition.
- Her own household is a higher priority than earning money. This might look different for every woman, but (see point #1 again) as long as her husband is happy with it, I think she’s fine.
- She’s thinking of others, not herself. How else can she be so generous to the poor and needy? It goes against our sin nature to be generous when the Almighty Dollar is on the line!
- She is kind and gentle. I don’t know about you, but there comes a moment of exhaustion when kindness and gentleness go out the window! We have to know how much we can handle, then be careful not to go past that point.
- She was wise. I know that wisdom comes only from my Father above (see James 1:5), so she needed enough time in her day to actually seek heavenly wisdom.
- She knew when to delegate, whether it was in caring for a vineyard, getting help from her servant girls, or allowing merchants to sell things she had made (rather than getting into an Internet business on top of everything else she was doing).
These are tough economic times. I hesitate to be legalistic, saying that women should or should not work, adding rules that aren’t in Scripture. In my heart, I really feel that my place is in the home. But maybe I feel so strongly about that because I have six young children. Maybe in another season of my life, I would be perfectly able to work outside the home and still keep my priorities straight. I just can’t answer that… for me, or for you either.
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13, NIV)
Ladies, don’t compare yourselves to other women, whether it’s a poem about a Proverbs 31 woman, or a woman in your local congregation. Here is an important verse to memorize. Yes, really.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).
Maybe the fellow businesswoman I mentioned at the beginning is facing some kind of expense that she’s never shared with me. I have no idea what her needs are!
Let’s not criticize each other, but rather, let’s be gentle and try to help each other. We can’t see into some other lady’s home; nor can we see what circumstances they must base their decisions upon and what motives drive their decisions. I’m only responsible for me, before God (which is a huge responsibility to bear), and also to my own husband. What does he want?
Meanwhile, we’re surrounded by a swirl of blogs, websites, books, seminars (yes, including mine!), where we pretend that other women are perfect and without the problems that we face everyday. It’s not reality.
So… (whew! what a post!)
For you ladies who want to start thinking about planting a simple garden of a business, here are some resources:
- “Families in Business” course by Cindy Rushton
- Help for writers by me
- Moms Choose Between Career and Kids by me
- How Do You Get It All Done? by me
And hey, while I’m at it, I’ll plug my own books and resources. I pray they will help you take a serious look at your priorities in light of God’s Word—and you’ll be helping me save for when I’m older and want to plant my own vineyard. <wink>