“She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants” (Proverbs 31:24, KJV).
Week by week, verse by verse, we’ve been studying through Proverbs 31 and the portrait it paints of a virtuous woman. Her characteristics are things we can try to put into our own lives, but there are a couple things we need to remember.
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.
She isn’t a real woman. Rather, she is a poem, a description of some ways that righteous women live their lives.
I don’t think any real woman could do all these things.
We’ve covered the topic of this woman working from her own home before. Proverbs 31 mentions her entrepreneurial skills many times:
“She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
“She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
“She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night” (Proverbs 31:18).
“She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle” (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 perplexing, 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 women only work from home?
I don’t want to cause controversy, but I have to be honest with you. I’ve been puzzling over these same issues for my entire married life. When I was first married, before I had any children, I worked full time as a financial aid officer 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. I was a piano teacher, working over 30 hours a week in my at-home studio. Later I baked bread and sold it, making daily deliveries. I’ve been an author for many years, writing for many hours each week.
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 is described as watching over the affairs of her household (Proverbs 31:27), making her husband a top priority (Proverbs 31:11), and being praised by her children (Proverbs 31:28). It’s very likely that no woman could do ALL the things listed in this poem EVERY day. There are seasons in a woman’s life during which she can devote more time to running a business rather than changing diapers.
So should a woman work? In my first 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 needing 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 an industrious 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 careful and efficient and wise, planting vineyards and selling fine linen to the merchants. I see her as self-disciplined with her time and resources, while loving to the people in her life.
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:11).
“Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31).
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.