“[SHE] MAKES HER ARMS STRONG.
SHE PUTS HER HANDS TO THE DISTAFF,
AND HER HANDS HOLD THE SPINDLE.
SHE OPENS HER HAND TO THE POOR
. . .
SHE IS NOT AFRAID OF SNOW FOR HER HOUSEHOLD,
FOR ALL HER HOUSEHOLD ARE CLOTHED IN SCARLET.
SHE MAKES BED COVERINGS FOR HERSELF;
HER CLOTHING IS FINE LINEN AND PURPLE.
. . .
SHE MAKES LINEN GARMENTS AND SELLS THEM;
SHE DELIVERS SASHES TO THE MERCHANT.”
PROVERBS 31:17-22, 24
This is where the Proverbs 31 woman can really become burdensome if you see it as some sort of cookie-cutter picture for all of us, rather than looking at the big picture of the passage as a whole.
Is this entire section prescriptive? Are we really all supposed to do all of this? While having little kids?! And the answer, friend, is “no.” But this productive, gifted lady is the sort of woman that is praised here, and so we can purposefully look at her life and learn from it.
Look at her. She’s skilled in a particular area (fabric/sewing) and she uses it to bless everyone she comes in contact with:
- The poor are blessed because she’s generous toward them.
- Her household is well-cared for, even in the coldest snow.
- She benefits from her work and does things that make her marriage bed rich and delightful (thus benefiting her husband).
- The colors and patterns she chooses are those that please her own eyes and bring cheer and vivacity to the lives of those around her.
- She’s even so skilled that she’s able to sell some of her work, and the merchants love to buy from her!
PRACTICALLY, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Now, what we definitely SHOULD NOT do is take this list and go, “OK, well, I’ve gotta figure out how to use the spindle and the distaff, and definitely need to UP the frequency of purple and red in my home, and find a retailer who wants to buy handmade sashes.” (A well-known author took this passage to its literal end, donning she and her husband with red scarves. That is a trivial, demeaning way of dealing with God’s Word and it’s definitely NOT what this passage is about.)
But the overarching principle is this: God gives us all unique abilities. Whatever ability(s) God has given you, USE. Use it to HIS glory, and for the good of the people around you, as well as your own happiness. Use it to bring a previously-unseen beauty and flair to the world. Use it to produce something worth having. Use it to build up others and to bless your family. USE IT.
Are you using the skill(s) that God has given you? Are you growing in your usefulness to God and others? Are you blessing others, on purpose?
… AND YET, REMEMBER SEASONS
I started college as a vocal performance major. I played guitar and led worship for my summer jobs several years in a row. One summer’s whole salary went toward buying a Seagull guitar with a beautiful rosette and a gorgeous sound.
Do you know what I rarely do, nowadays?
Play that beautiful guitar.
And you know what’s more?
I don’t think I’m disregarding this part of Proverbs 31 by not using that skill very often during this season.
I’m a mom of little children and my life right now isn’t always conducive to having the guitar out. But I sing while I chop vegetables. And every now and then, I whip it out, tune up the strings, and sing with my family.
Not every skill will grow in the ways we anticipate when we are younger. And the learning of other skills may come out of nowhere and dominate your life for a season.
GROW AND BE FRUITFUL
Interestingly though, my best “skills” and abilities aren’t those that I would have listed back in those college days. Eight years ago, I was intensively learning hospitality and cooking from scratch (we’d moved overseas, and I could no longer rely on convenience foods to pinch hit in my weekly menu). About five years ago, I began learning to sew. I now cook and sew with far greater skill and frequency than I play the guitar.
Some new things that I think seem to be growing most in me right now are counseling and a regular dependence on God. Let GOD direct you to areas on which you can focus so that you can skillfully offer up what is productive in the lives of people around you.
Look at the lay of the land and try to discern:
What is it God seems to be doing in my life and heart right now? Is there a skill area, or a spiritual area, where He has custom-built an opportunity for growth, fruitfulness, and blessing for me?
- What skill(s) of yours could be a blessing to the poor (poor in money and/or poor in spirit) around you?
- Is there an area of your home that needs your attention to prepare for a future season?
- Do you need to let go of guilt felt for not using an old skill that isn’t particularly useful right now?
- Is this a season where you can be amping up your skills, or is this a season where you can actually use your skills, to bless others and perhaps even bring some income? (But no guilt & no pressure! This means you, young mom who wants to tackle everything all at once!) 🙂