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 (Manna 38: Women in the Bible)
A Woman's Priorities: Lessons Learned from the Proverbs 31 Woman
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ARA WOMAN’S PRIORITIES:Lessons Learned from the Proverbs 31 Woman The woman in Proverbs 31 probably seems archaic today. But we need to take a closer look at her character and nature. So the question is: What can the modern woman learn from this Biblical character? This article examines the qualities and virtues of the woman in Proverbs 31. Although most women do not seek wool and flax, consider a field, or plant vineyards, women still need to learn how to fear God, be a good wife, a good mother, and a good Christian. From her example, women can learn to recognize her priorities and strive for a more enriched life in God’s perspective. Many of us women today find ourselves juggling a job, a family, a household, and even volunteer work-leaving ourselves physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and performing none of our responsibilities well. It seems like there is so much to accomplish, and yet we have only a limited amount of time and energy.

Our Lord Jesus did not call us to such a harried, stressful, and unhappy life. Rather, He called us to a life of peace and joy. It’s time for us overburdened women to re-evaluate our commitments and responsibilities in light of God’s word, and to live out our role as women in the way God originally planned.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a woman who faced many of the same challenges women face today. She too took care of a family, a household, a business, and even managed to reach out to those in her community-all the while keeping a positive outlook on life. How did she manage to do everything and keep her sanity at the same time? If we study her life, we can see that her success hinged on two things: her priorities and her philosophy of life. Let’s study these principles and see how we can apply them to our own lives so that we, too, can enjoy a fulfilling life.

HER PRIORITIES

This woman could seemingly balance everything because she understood her three primary responsibilities in life: her husband, her household, and herself. All other commitments (such as her business and community involvement) were secondary-important, but supplementary.

Her Husband

This woman’s dedication to her husband is summed up in the following description: “She does [her husband] good and not evil all the days of her life” (v. 12). Her life was devoted to “doing her husband good.” She understood that God’s main purpose for woman was to help man (Gen 2:18, 20).

However, being a helper to man does not make woman inferior to him. God Himself described woman as “a helper comparable to Him,” and Paul wrote that male and female have been made equal in Christ (Gal 3:28).

In fact, the Bible describes woman as the “glory of man” (1 Cor 11:7-9) and an excellent wife as a “crown to her husband” (Prov 12:4). As wives, we hold a place of honor in God’s eyes. So how does being a “helper” to man translate into daily life? Does this mean that we must now slavishly devote our lives to granting our husband’s every wish and whim? Fortunately for us, this is not God’s intention.

Instead, being a helper to our husbands begins with the right attitude. Our purpose as wives is to help build up our husbands in all aspects of their lives-physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our presence in their lives should be “a good thing” (Prov 18:22) rather than an “evil” thing (Prov 31:12).

Although each man is different and the ways in which a wife builds him up will be different, the Bible does give us a clue about one principle that is the same across the board. Paul in Ephesians 5:33 says, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Paul was wise to understand how God made males and females “tick.” Just as love and affection make women thrive and flourish, so respect and deference make men grow and succeed. One of the best ways we can build up our husbands is to respect them.

This is much easier said than done, especially after we’ve gotten to know our husbands-and all of their shortcomings. Our first reaction to these shortcomings is to “help” them overcome them by pointing them out, suggesting ways to fix them, and then reminding them (again and again) when they’ve failed to do so.

After many rounds of this, we realize that our efforts are futile and they just refuse to be “helped.” Their shortcomings are still there, the marriage becomes strained, and love and respect start to sprout wings and fly out the window. Then, as a last resort, we turn to prayer.

Many women, after many years of marriage, finally realize one shocking truth: we cannot change our husbands, no matter how much we plead, cajole, argue, threaten, debate, and confront.

But God can. And God works through our prayers for our husbands. We often don’t realize that all the unpleasantness can be avoided if only we turned to prayer from the beginning.

Being our husband’s helper does not mean that we have the license and responsibility to “fix” him. Being our husband’s helper does mean that we have the duty to pray to God so that He can build up our husband into what He wants him to become.

At the same time, we pray to the Lord to help us keep a respectful heart toward our husband so that our actions build him up rather than tear him down. The best way we can “do good” to our husband all the days of our lives is to pray for him.

Her Household

Today, the great debate is whether or not a woman should be a homemaker or work outside the home. Many women today try to do both, leaving them exhausted and unhappy. The example of this wise woman shows us how to reconcile the two.

The bulk of this passage illustrates her care of the household (which included both children and maidservants). The passages says that “she watches over the ways of her household,” which means that she was responsible for making sure her household ran smoothly. And run it she did.

She made sure her household wore the best clothing (v. 21), which she made herself (v. 13). She provided the best food for her household (v. 14) and rose early to prepare it (v. 15). She even bought a vineyard with her own money (v. 16) in order to provide luxuries such as grapes, raisins, wine, and vinegar.

Most importantly, she was a good mother to her children, who attest to this by “call[ing] her blessed” (v. 28).

So what does her example mean to us today? Although it is politically incorrect in today’s society, this woman’s example tells us that our primary responsibility should be homemaking, especially if we have children.

Titus exhorts, “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Paul also encouraged the young widows of his time to “marry, bear children, manage the house…” (1 Tim 5:14).

Today, most of the duties of women long ago, such as making clothes, cooking, and cleaning house can be delegated to others if we lack the time. But there is one duty that we cannot delegate to others, and that is being a mother.

No one else can be a mother to our children. No one else can provide the love, companionship, and teaching that we provide for our children. God did not intend for us to give birth to our children and then send them off to daycare, leaving strangers to raise them. Instead, God commands us:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deut 7:5-7)

God commands us to teach our children diligently, and in order to do this; we must be there to “talk to them,” “sit with them,” and “walk with them.” This means that we must spend “quantity time” with our children as well as “quality time.”

Children grow up so quickly, and there is only so much time that we have to “impress upon them” the word of the Lord. We must have the wisdom to weigh which is more important: using our time to mold our children into godly adults, or making more money to live a life of material comfort.

Does this mean that we must relegate ourselves to a tedious life of domesticism and shun anything that smacks of “work” or “profit”? Of course not.

This wise woman also supplemented the household income by maintaining a little “business” on the side. But notice that she did not do so at the expense of her family. She would use her spare time to make linen garments and sashes, which she sold for profit. We, too, can work to supplement the household income, but it is important that we do not do so at the expense of our primary responsibility-our family and our household. If our work takes away time from our family and the running of our own house, then it is time to reconsider our work.

In addition, this wise woman’s life did not revolve solely around her family; she also reached out to her community by giving to the poor (v. 20). Being a homemaker does not mean that we are tied to the home.

Today, we, too, can enrich our community by reaching out monetarily, emotionally, or through ministry. Again, we should make sure that it does not infringe on our family responsibilities. Of course, time passes, children grow up, and they no longer need as much of our attention. Different seasons of life call for different measures, and we should ask God to give us the wisdom to devote our time wisely to the different areas of our life.

Herself

Many women today get lost in the shuffle of their never-ending “to-do” list. But we can see from this wise woman’s example that one of her primary priorities was-herself.

Although she was a wife, mother, and homemaker, she did not relegate herself to martyrdom. Instead, she dressed herself in “fine linen and purple” (v. 22), she clothed herself with “strength and honor” (v. 25), and she spoke with “wisdom” and “kindness” (v. 26). She made sure to keep her appearance, character, and actions in good shape.

Sometimes, we allow all our responsibilities to drain us of our physical and emotional strength and break down our character. It is important that we set apart the time to recharge and build ourselves up in all aspects: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This means that, yes, it is good for us to indulge in a bubble bath, a good book, a haircut, or whatever else that makes us feel refreshed and recharged. We should be sure to keep ourselves physically active and eat a healthy diet.

This means that, yes, we should spend time talking with our girlfriends about our feelings, our struggles, and our joys. We should take that leisurely stroll on the beach, go on a date with our husband, or whatever else uplifts us emotionally.

This means that, yes, we must make time to ask the Lord for spiritual strength and join with others for fellowship. If we don’t have time for anything else, we must make time for daily communion with God through prayer and Bible reading.

This wise woman “girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms” (v. 17). We too must do the same in order to shoulder the many responsibilities that God has entrusted to us.

Psalm 18:32 says, “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.” Psalm 118:14 says, “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” The Lord will become our strength and our salvation if we make the time to build ourselves up in Him.

HER FOUNDATION

This woman’s philosophy of life was the secret to her satisfying and meaningful life, and it formed the foundation of all her actions. Her husband summed up her philosophy in these words: “…a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov 31:30). This woman built her life upon the “fear of the Lord.”

What does it mean to “fear the Lord”? Obviously, “fear” in this context does not mean that we must live in constant dread and worry of God’s punishment. Instead, the fear of the Lord is “a loving reverence of God that includes submission to His lordship and to the commands of His word (Eccl 12:13)” (NIV Study Bible, p. 939).

In other words, fearing the Lord means loving Him with all our heart (Mk 12:30) and making Him the master of all aspects of our lives (Mt 6:24), not just the parts related to worship services and holy work. Ultimately, we manifest our fear of the Lord through our obedience to His commands in our daily lives (Jn 14:21).

If we wish to have the wisdom to understand our place in this world, to have the strength to carry out our role effectively, and to enjoy a life of peace and fulfillment, then we, too, need to build our life upon the fear of the Lord. It needs to be the foundation of our lives, the beginning and the end of all that we do.

This woman reaped many benefits because she lived by the fear of the Lord. She enjoyed a life without worry or fear of the future (v.21), and she could rejoice in time to come (v. 25). She was a woman praised by her husband, her children, and her community (vv. 28-31). Her life is summed up in this:

Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates. (vv. 29-31)

Indeed, this wise woman enjoyed the fruit of her hands, and we too can enjoy the same fruit-a life of joy and fulfillment-in the roles that God intended for us, making Him the foundation and master of every aspect of our lives.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church
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