“She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
. . .
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Proverbs 31:13-15, 27
VERSE 13: SHE SEEKS WOOL AND FLAX, AND WORKS WITH WILLING HANDS.
The artistry and skill of making an outfit has become just an optional college major. Nowadays, fashion design is thought of more in the realm of celebrity TV shows than in real life.
But in the time of Solomon, this was daily life for any woman. After seeking and gathering wool and flax, there was work to be done. The fibers had to be spun into yarn and then the yarn woven or stitched into fabric. Any artistry applied to make it more lovely or palatable increased its value and meaning (think of Joseph’s coat).
But HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO US TODAY? Are we all supposed to major in fashion design, or own spinning wheels and sewing machines?
The principle here is found in the last phrase: she “works with willing hands.” This woman is a worker; her hands willingly move to the task.
So if I want to take this overarching picture and apply its principles to my life then I should consider this: whatever the task is before me-– dinner, fixing a button, helping a child learn something in school, greeting people at church, folding laundry, editing a publication, or shopping for needed supplies– I am to do it “with willing hands.” That reminds me of Philippians 2, where we are told to “do all things without grumbling.”
Are you slow to move to the tasks God has put on your plate? Do you give a grudging obedience? Or could it be said of you that you “work with willing hands?”
VERSE 14: “SHE IS LIKE THE SHIPS OF THE MERCHANT; SHE BRINGS HER FOOD FROM AFAR.”
Merchant ships, even in the days of Proverbs & Solomon, brought spices and treats from faraway places. Consider what it would be like, to have always eaten lamb, rice, salty & savory dishes, and then have someone bring you a juicy, sweet pear grown in a distant land.
This woman pulls together a variety of elements to intentionally prepare nourishing meals for her family. Her efforts bless those around her. She may also “bring her food from afar” if it helps stretch the family budget. A couple weeks ago, two friends took me to some discount grocery stores in our area so that I can provide better quality food for our family, for less money than I’d spend at the normal grocery store. It takes a little more time and planning (because it’s farther away), but it’s worth it. Some people use a discount warehouse, or Amazon, in this way.
One commentator gave this verse a spiritual application. He said this sort of woman listens carefully and saves up spiritual truths “from far off,” so that she may be ready to apply them to her family & friends’ needs as they arise.
Are you intentional about the things you bring to your family? With spiritual and physical food, do you work hard to put valuable, good things in front of them, so that they might grow up strong?
VERSE 15: SHE RISES WHILE IT IS YET NIGHT AND PROVIDES FOOD FOR HER HOUSEHOLD AND PORTIONS FOR HER MAIDENS.
Now, without justifying laziness, I want to point out what I did in the first installment of this series– I believer this passage is a look at a woman’s whole life, not a snapshot of her homemaking perfection in the throes of being a mom of little ones or something.
This is not saying that it’s wrong to sleep in, or that we all need to have 5am quiet times, or that a biblical breakfast is one you have to wake up early to prepare. This is not saying that you are wrong to sleep in when you’ve been up half the night nursing your newborn.
That said, when needful, this woman chooses providing for her family and the people she’s responsible for OVER her own sleep.
I want to be careful here, because I think sleep is something that gets the short end of the stick in our current parenting culture. Too many moms are running around declaring strong feelings about “nighttime parenting” (which oftentimes means getting up however many times the child wants), but these same women are nearing the very end of their rope. The child and mom are both high-strung and seeking all sorts of medical help that could perhaps be mostly (if not entirely) alleviated by stringing together a good number of restful nights in a row.
This verse is not glorifying a lack of adequate sleep.
The big picture is important here. This is not saying, “sleep is unimportant, mama. Take the hit for your family anytime anybody makes a peep.” I believe this is saying, “This is a woman who prioritizes others. She cares for them and sees to their needs, even when it costs her. She makes sure everyone in her care has the essential things.”
VERSE 27: “SHE LOOKS WELL TO THE WAYS OF HER HOUSEHOLD AND DOES NOT EAT THE BREAD OF IDLENESS.”
This woman pays attention to the things going on in her household. She notices when someone’s having a growth spurt and needs an extra portion at dinner (or longer pants!). When she repeatedly sees that shoes pile up near a particular doorway, she places a basket there so they can be collected and not strewn in every direction. If her husband works the nightshift, she may adjust her family’s schedule to best suit that unique dynamic. She’s tuned into the “ways” of her household.
Are you paying attention to the “ways” of your home? Do you need to address things in your home that you are lazily overlooking? If your husband overlooked things in his job the way you do in your home, would he get a paycheck & promotions, or get fired?
I believe this last part — “does not eat the bread of idleness” — has a spiritual application. Are we satisfied with the “bread” we have learned in previous times of spiritual growth, or are we continually looking to God’s Word so that we can grow?
Are you spiritually “idling”, sitting still with old lessons learned and old gems mined from the Scriptures? Or are you actively working to glean new spiritual food so that you can better nourish yourself and others?
Also note: the way that she looks to the ways of her household is connected with her lack of idleness. It’s not mere *busyness* that she’s busy with… her busyness is for the benefit of her family and the function of the household.
If lazy, are there areas where you need to work more diligently to bless those who live in your home? If busy, are your activities focused on benefiting your household, or are you just busy with commitments and activities that take you away from the home?
- In what area of your life do you need to learn to joyfully “work with willing hands?”
- Could you stretch your family budget more by “bringing food from afar?”
- Do you see to the needs of your family, even forsaking sleep if need be, in order to care for them?
- Do a mental walk-through of your house, taking note of the “ways” of your household. Are there things in your home that need your attention and problem-solving, so that they function more efficiently or beneficially for your family?
- What commitments and obligations keep you busy? Do you need to cut some out, so that your activity is truly benefitting those who are in your household?
- What kind of commitment do you have to the Word of God? Have you been spiritually stalling and “eating the bread of idleness?” How will you prioritize this goal of mining fresh truth and encouragement from Scripture?