A burden of mine is to communicate with women that we must always operate with a spirit of excellence. As believers in our precious Savior, Jesus the Messiah, we must not live our lives in a slip-shod manner, as if what we do doesn’t really matter.
Why does excellence matter?
- We are created in the image of a Creator God. Everything He created was “very good,” and we need to imitate Him in our actions.
- We need to follow the example of those who are in God’s Word. If God thought that someone’s story was important enough to record for us in His Word, then we need to ask why. For instance, when God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle, two men were chosen to oversee the work. Notice that even though theirs aren’t household names, they did their work with excellence:
“Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the LORD commanded Moses; with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan—a craftsman and designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen” (Exodus 38:22-23, NIV).
- Our everyday work should be offered as an act of worship to our God. Every sacrifice to God is to be the best we have to offer (see also Leviticus 1).
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV).
- The world is watching us. Our actions reflect upon our God. His honor and reputation are at stake in our work.
In our verse from Proverbs 31 today, we learn that she operated with a high standard of excellence.
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night” (Proverbs 31:18, KJV).
To “perceive” means to know from experience. It literally means “to taste.” She knew that her merchandise was good because she had tasted it, sampled it, experienced it.
“Merchandise” in this verse means something from which she profited. (By the way, I’m simply using e-sword for these definitions.) This is yet another reference to the business that she operated. She didn’t just dabble in this business; rather, she poured her life into it so that it actually earned money for her and her family. She “tasted” and “experienced” these profits. Her merchandise was profitable and good.
The verse states that “her candle goeth not out by night.” Stop here! This cannot possibly mean that she never went to bed at night. Nor can this mean that she went to bed late and got up early (see verse 15), getting very little sleep. This can’t be, because it contradicts other portions of God’s Word. (See my article about the importance of sleep.)
Rather, the idea here is that her merchandise was of such high quality that it would last. The picture in the Hebrew words is that her light doesn’t get extinguished in the middle of adversity. Her stuff is built to last! Again we see that a spirit of excellence pervades all that she does.
So let’s summarize this woman’s business:
- She has experienced the profit of her labor.
- She sees real profit to others (her family and others) from her efforts.
- She sticks with it. She’s not a quitter.
- She doesn’t put others at risk because of her negligence.
Let’s get practical. How does this affect us in our homes, as godly wives and mothers (and possibly, as business women ourselves)?
- Start at home, in the small things. Be faithful in a few things. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, NIV). How faithful are you in house cleaning, laundry, parenting, keeping promises to others, managing your time, reading your Bible daily?
- Discipline yourself. Excellence starts in the details, but sometimes the details get overwhelming. Make a to-do list, and discipline yourself to cross off items as you do them. Don’t allow procrastination in yourself. (One friend shared that she takes her to-do list to God in prayer each morning, asking Him what He wants from her time. Then she makes sure to be obedient, since her “marching orders” are from the King of Kings!)
- Find out what would bless others. We are to be governed by the law of doing unto others what we would want them do to us. We are to love others as ourselves. Our excellence is not to make ourselves proud; rather, it is an act of selflessness for others. To do this, ask questions of others. Be a good listener. What problems could we solve by our abilities? What answers can we give them from God’s Word? How can our actions leave others with a taste of God’s love?
- Evaluate regularly. The Bible says that we are to know the condition of our flocks (Proverbs 27:23). Do you allow time in your schedule periodically for getting away and prayerfully evaluating your work?
- Know your limits. Do you know when to stop working? Don’t take on more than you can really do well. I like the law in God’s Word about putting a balcony around your rooftop so that others won’t accidentally fall off. Our time and energy need a balcony, a boundary, as well. Why? For our own good? Not entirely. When you do too much, you harm others by your broken promises. You could cause hurt to someone else, and now your lack of discipline has overflown into hurt to others.
Ladies, it’s good to dream. Let’s just be sure we also pay attention to the manner that we work, so that our God has a good reputation from our lives.