She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Proverbs 31:20-24The wise and godly woman here knows the taste of success. When it says that she "senses" her gain is good - God uses the word for tasting something. She works hard, which we see consistently in the previous verses. But more than that, she tastes that what she is doing it good. The things that she sells to the merchants brings her gain - it helps her to earn money. She knows and tastes the success that hard work brings. It is important that people experience the fruit of their labor. I am not one who believes in the economic systems of socialism or communism. Those two systems tout a false idea of community goods that are shared by all. The problem is that such systems kill the benefits of hard work and labor for the individual. In the end, the collective works only as hard as they want to - and since they receive nothing but the same allotment for their labors - they are not motivated to excell at them. The result of tasing the fruit of your labors will be far less labors. When we are allowed to taste that sweet fruit, we are motivated to labor harder, smarter, wiser for the good of our own benefit - and by that for the good of our family and others around us.
This godly woman knows that her gain is good. Here we have another confrontation with the current thoughts on economics. In our world gain is bad! How dare Capitalists relish the fact that they are making a profit. We wrongly call them evil - yet it is their "so-called profit that allows so many others to enjoy benefits. This godly lady knew in her heart that hard work would yield good things - and would bless her - bless her family - bless others who bought them - and eventually would bless her community. When governments try to "equalize" the playing field - what they mean is that they are going to promise everyone the same outcome - because that is what they say is fair. What is amazing is that they want an equal misery for the masses - but for themselves luxury. Every socialist and communist leader has evidenced the sin nature. They talk a certain egalitarianism among others - but they themselves will have the most. They will have the best of everything. What they deliver to the people is equal poverty and misery.
It is self-interest that will drive men and women to their best efforts. They must receive some reward for hard labor - and once they taste this fruit - they will want more. This results in hard work - work ethic as it is called. This woman knows that. Because she tastes that her gain is good - she works hard. She labors into the night as her lamp can testify. She stretches out her hands to make clothing - which is what the terms distaff and spiindle indicate. This is because she is working toward her own self-interest. In this case that means her own clothing - the clothing of her family - and clothing that can be sold to others to earn more money for the welfare of her home. This is the kind of work God encourages - and blesses. May He give us wisdom to reject the false philosophies that promote powerful government officials who speak of equality and egalitarianism - but who only deliver a corporate misery to the masses as they live high on the hog themselves. May we instead see the value of hard work, frugality, and wisdom in taking what God gives us and using it for the benefit of our families. The fascinating thing about this kind of life is that as families (Which are the basic unit of society in God's economy) multiply with these views, a village, city, region, and even nation is blessed and prosperous as a result.
Verse 21 introduces us to the way that this woman is generous toward her own household. She does this by knowing of their needs. She lives in a climate where snow and cold affect her children and family. Therefore she labors to make sure that they are clothed with scarlet. The imagry here is that of seeing the heaviness of the clothing she provides for her family. She makes sure that they are warm when it is cold outside. The word household even goes a step further. This word also referred to the servants one might have in and out of their home. She is gracious and kind enough to make sure that even they are warm and well taken care of especially when it is cold outside and they need warm clothing.This next verse may seem strange to us - but she also provides for herself. This indicates her frugality, as clothes made by her own hands would cost less than those made by others. But it also indicates that she cares about her appearance. Her clothing is fine linen and purple. These are expensive and fine fabrics she uses and it indicates that her household (who are all clothed in this fashion as well - from verse 21) are dressed as those who are proud of their appearance. This is not because they are clothed in the latest fashions from Gapstein, Eyptian Eagle, or Old Testament Navy. These are clothes their mother produced by the labor of her own hand. There is class here - but not class that arises out of buying things from others. It is the class that arises from quality made at home. In this way she blesses her children, her husband, and even herself.
The excellent wife is generous toward her husband as well. We find it said that eh is known in the gates and sits among the elders of the land. He is successful and wise. Working with and for him and her family is this godly woman who takes great joy in seeing her husband respected. That takes for granted that she herself respects him - and respect for him grows in concentric circles from what men see in her heart and actions. When a man's household is in order and respectable - men want him to rise to other positions of leadership where he can do the same. The wisdom and discretion they see in his choice of a wife makes them want him to lead them. His wife, in this way, is his crown (Proverbs 12:4).
We see this attitude in Ruth - who delighted in seeing her husband Boaz honored in the gates of the land. She was indeed an excellent wife, even though she was a Gentile. Those who saw and experienced her wisdom and servant heart praised her to Boaz - and spoke to her mother-in-law of how she was better to her than seven sons. To bring honor to those around us by the way we carry ourselves is a high task. Too many live only for the honor brought to themselves - and are content with the compliments being spent there. The true servant and generous person is the one who gives of herself with no thought of herself. She is content to receive praise by seeing those she loved praised. Truly that is a generous person.
The excellent wife is generous even in business with others. Her skill is such that she is not just able to make garments for her own family - but she makes them for others. The quality of her work creates a demand for what she makes. She sells garments she makes to others who desire them for their beauty and quality. Even the tradesmen want her products. This is quite a compliment because a tradesman is one who offers quality merchandise. They learn their trade and perfect it over years. What we have here is a woman of excellence - who makes garments excellently so that those who know excellent merchandise want it when they see it. She is generous even to them for what she makes . . . sells and sells well.
The excellent wife is a generous woman. That generosity moves out in circles blessing first those she loves and calls family. Eventually though, she is so skilled in what she does that the demand for her work is great. Being selfish most often hurts the one who is this way. But being generous will bless the one who is in ways that only someone who is truly giving can understand.
She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. Proverbs 31:16-19
This is the third day that we have looked at qualities of the excellent wife. In the verses we look at today we see that this particular woman that Bathsheba is describing for her son is an industrious woman. Let’s look at the ways that she walks out her industriousness.
First we see that she knows real estate – or at least how to “consider” a field in which she plans to plant a vineyard. The word here for “consider” is “zamam” and it means to speak to oneself in a low voice or a quiet one. The concept here is that of deliberating on something. It meant to formulate a plan of action – from beginning to end – and then counsel with yourself to make sure that the plan is a good one. It represents the inner thought process one has as they seek God and even converse within themselves when making a very important decision. For the excellent wife this decision concerns whether a field is worth purchasing. This includes the thought of whether the field is acceptable for agriculture (in this case to plant a vineyard). Then it moves on to whether she has the money to make the purchase – as well as whether the field is going to be profitable in the endeavor. This lady is not a wall-flower – and neither is she so delicate that she shuns hard work.
The second thing we see is that this woman is strong. She has girded her arms with strength. This strength is not from going to the gym all the time – but rather from good, old-fashioned hard work. She is planting a vineyard – working a field, then coming home to grasp the distaff and spindle to make yarn and eventually fabric from which to clothe and bless her family. Whatever the work – it is a good thing to have a wife who knows how to work hard. All this is delightful to her – for she senses that her work is good. She sees that the things she is doing are going to be a blessing to her family. She is earning money from which they can be blessed. She is planting a vineyard from which they can get grapes, grape juice, and wine. She is working hard to turn the lamb and sheep’s wool and cotton into cloth and eventually garments for her, her family, her servants, and even those to whom she sells them later in the passage. She even works in the evening time – not having her lamp go out at night for the purpose of blessing those whom she loves.
The excellent wife knows work – knows strength that comes from work – and senses and knows that a good work ethic is a blessing to her and to her family. First there is the direct gain to herself that comes from it. It is a good thing to desire to bless ourselves with our work. There is a self-interest that God has built into each of us that is beneficial to us if we use it to work hard. That self-interest though must go to bless others around us as well. The excellent wife wanted to bless her husband, her children, her servants, and even the men and women in the city as she worked hard to produce things of benefit. That selfless self-interest is what drives a beneficial economy. Things like socialism and communism have NEVER blessed a country and its economy. That is because they do not encourage work ethic. They do not encourage a selfless self-interest to be productive. They encourage instead a growing dependence on government as the driver of all things – and the one that determines who gets what in the end. Everywhere that has been practiced it has encouraged laziness and greater dependence on someone to give us more and more – even if we did not work to get it. The excellent wife knows that her example of hard work will do more than give the family a few more shekels. She will promote that same hard working ethic in her children and in others around her. She will provide goods for others – and will show people that hard work and frugality does bring blessing on those who practice it. In the end, the excellent wife knows that there is more to this than raising grapes . . . she needs to raise children and their children to many generations with the same hard-working mindset. That will last far longer than a bunch of grapes or any other products she labors to produce.
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
The wise man takes what God has given him and uses it wisely. He spends some and uses it for himself, his family, and his friends. He also saves some and puts it away for future use as well as for lean times. Today let's take a look at the acts of the wise man who saves for his future and the foolish man who simply swallows everything God grants to him.
We are told that precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise man. Whether he received these things from the practices of industry and frugality - or whether he received them as an inheritance from godly, thoughtful parents - the wise man knows how to save. Precious treasure is an interesting word as it has two connotations. The first is from how the word is used to refer to things like gold, silver, and other commodities. He saves money, food, and other valuable things so that he will have access to them in the future. Why does he do this? Because a wise man knows that since the world in which we live is fallen and affected by sin - there will be times of shortage and leanness. Throughout all human history there have been both abundance and famine in our world. Joseph knew such things from God Himself when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He did not waste time in the purcuit of gluttony and over-indulgence. Joseph was a wise man and saved and stored much so that when the famine came he would be ready. His foresight and obedience to God saved all of Egypt, saved his own family, and made Egypt rich beyond their imaginations.
There is a second way this word "treasure" is used. The word can also mean "temple treasures." These spoke of treasures that were given so as to build up and maintain the worship of God in the temple. In the dwelling of the wise there is provision stored up not only for physical welfare - but for the spiritual welfare of the home as well. There is little more foolish among mankind than to think this world is all that there is. They live ignorant of God and ignorant of their responsiblity to Him. The wise man stores up for both the physical and the spiritual. There is in his house a physical inheritance - but also a spiritual one as well. He lives godly and rears his children to love and honor God. He makes sure that the Word dwells richly within their hearts - desiring for them to walk with God and know Him intimately.
Not only is there treasure within this house of the wise, there is also oil. When speaking of oil - this could speak of the olive oil that was used in almost every aspect of a Jewish family. They needed this for food preparation - for spiritual worship for annointing oil - and for medical reasons like softening wounds and helping them heal. There was also the idea of savings - because some oils were very expensive. Mary offered a container of very expensive oil as she annointed Jesus with it in preparation for His crucifixion and burial. This alabaster vial was worth a whole year's wages. When one of the prpohetic students of Elisha died, his widow was in debt and in danger of haring her chidlren sold into debt slavery. Elisha answered this by having her collect numerous vials which later were supernaturally filled with oil. This she sold, paid her debt, and even had plenty to kep her and her children alive and well. This kind of oil would signify that a family was preparint for their future - for the needs of their children and grandchildren. On a spiritual note - oil was a picture of the Holy Spirit - so one could even consider this the way that a family cherished the work of the Spirit in their lives and encouraged it in themselves and in their children.
The foolish ones don't save any of these things - either physical or spiritual. Theirs is a consumer mentality. They swallow up whatever they receive with no thought of the future. They live by their lusts and desires - and therefore do not even consider anyone except themselves. The end of such a life is that they are broke, both physically and spiritually. The saddest example of this is the prodigal son. He took a large inheritance and wasted it on the party life. In the end he was broke. His so-called friends abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. This was only after he abandoned any kind of spiritual preparation for the future by rejecting his father and his father's God. He was left with nothing - except the grace his faher would give him in the end.
If we are wise we will realize we live in a fallen world. This will necessitate preparation for our future - both physically and spiritually. We will face famines physically that will require that lay up wise stores for that day in order for us and for our families to survive. But there is also a need to prepare spiritually - for there will also be a day when we will face being ready for the judgment of God. Oh to be wise and understanding so that our preparations will have our homes and lives filled with treasures both temporal and eternal so that we will be well provided for when the day comes that we need them. May God, in His grace, work in and deliver us from a life lived for self and for the moment. May we be ready for anything - famine in life - and fatal spiritual thinking in eternity.
He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich. Proverbs 21:17
Much can be discerned about a society and people by those it deems as their heros. Ours is a society in very serious decline - and that can be fairly easily discerned when one examines our heros. Those considered our heros today are people in the entertainment industry and sports stars. Singers and actors are paraded before us day after day even though they offer little of nothing to us outside of entertainment. Their broken lives are the source of the headlines of our tabliods. Each a little more lurid than the last one - we are watch them self-destruct with baited breath. When the next star arises (especially a child star) we can predict the sad trail that will be followed. We will find that if they are rich intially, their riches will vanish - or be consumed by the wreckage of failed marriages, arrests, and stints in drug rehabilitation facilities. The plot of such lives is as predictable as the plot of a soap opera - and usually as ungodly as well.
Take for example Mike Tyson, of boxing fame. Tyson squandered a $350 million to $400 million dollar fortune. What did he do to lose all this money? He dropped half a million dollars on a 420-horsepower Bentley Continental SC with lamb’s wool rugs, a phone and a removable glass roof. He definitely loved expensive cars because he spent over $4.5 million dollars on cars alone. Throw in a $2 million dollar bathtub and $140,000 for two Bengal tigers and you can see why Tyson’s fortune went down the drain and he filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
We are warned that the ones who love pleasure will become poor. Often for these people hard work, frugality, and restraint are not in their vocabulary. They are far more interested in parties, pleasure, and indugence of their lusts. They are living for the so-called "good time" that they can have here and now - with little or no thought of what lies beyond the end of the week. Their lives are spent on pleasure, the pursuit of things, and often on sexual immorality.
Wine and oil are mentioned in this warning. Those who love these two things, it warns, will not become rich. Wine and oil were the usual things to be had at expensive banquets. This was not ordinary wine, but expensive wine. When I go to higher class restaurants that serve wine, I am shocked that some wines cost over 200 to 300 dollars per bottle. There are wines out there priced at over $1000 to $5000 each bottle. Someone wanting to impress their friends with an expensive banquet would purchase the very best wines to be served there. The oils could also be very extravagant in their price range. Mary was criticized for using an ointment to annoint Jesus that cost almost an entire year's worth of wages. For the rich, such ointments were given to their guests as a sign of their wealth. Their parties and banquets would be filled with the expensive smell of high priced oils. Doing this would cost a fortune - and would assure that the one doing it would not be wealthy for long.
The prodigal son had great wealth when he left his father's house. But he soon squandered it with rich, loose living. His parties were probably the stuff of legend to those who attended. The only problem was that when the money ran out - and the parties became austere in their appearance - all his so-called friends left. The one who loves the pleasures of his flesh will not become rich. His riches and wealth will be swallowed whole by his wicked appetite. This is why we are counselled not to love such things. We are instead told that the wise man is the one who leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren. He is the one who invests so as to reap long-term benefits and rewards. Ultimately he knows that he will take nothing with him when he dies. Thus the wisest man invests in the kingdom of God and the advance of the gospel - sending true riches ahead of him to the one place where moth and rust do not destroy and where no thief can break in or steal. The wise man knows to invest in heavenly things that glorify God is the safest investment of all. Therefore he lives with God's glory as his goal in all things - financial, physical, and spiritual. This will be a rich man, now, as well as for all eternity.
An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end. Proverbs 20:21Quick money is often thought of as a blessing - but often is more like a curse. This proverb is all about warning us of the dangers of greed and quickly gaining money and wealth without having the character to deal with what we receive. The best example of this is the prodigal son. His father gave him his inheritance, but he was not ready morally to handle it. What happened next is an altogether too often heard story. He wasted his inheritance on loose living and partying with his new-found friends. He only learns when the money is gone that he has no real friends among the sycophants who have gathered around him. He only has regrets and abject poverty. The inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning - was not blessed in the end.
Note here that the problem is "hurriedly" gaining this inheritance. A wise man will prepare his children and his children's children for the inheritance that they will most likely receive at his death. He does this by teaching them the value of work. This work ethic that is built into them gives them a proper perspective toward money. They see money earned and see that they do not waste all their hard work on silly and frivilous pursuits. When the inheritance comes - they learn to spend it and invest it in ways that will bring long-term blessing rather than just a short-term high.
The best way to prepare a person for an inheritance is to have them focused on God rather than on money. They see an inheritance is a blessing to pass on rather than to be wasted on their lusts and desires. They want to see the family wealth passed to many generations. This is called generational wealth - and it can bless multiple generations of one family. But even more important than this is passing on to children the truth that the things of this world are passing away. Therefore the wise man invests and sees real wealth in terms of becoming rich toward God. This means investing in the kingdom of God - investing in good works - and investing in buiilding up disciples of Jesus Christ who can bless multiple generations. Ultimately the wise man teaches his children that the greatest inheritance is that given to us by God. We are blessed with a heavenly inheritance in Christ Jesus our Lord. That inheritance will never pass away - and is reserved in heaven for us.
Wealth - especially sudden, hurriedly gained wealth will test us sorely. We will be tested in our values - in our view of what is truly valuable - and in our view toward eternally valuable things. The man whose master is money (mammon in Scripture) will cling to that master and hate any others who rival him. The man whose master is the Lord will be blessed not just in the short term as he receives an inheritance, he will be blessed in his own generation - in multiple generations afterward - and ultimately, he will be blessed in the presence of God forever. Now there is an inheritance worth living for in life!
She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. Proverbs 31:13-16
The godly woman as represented here in Proverbs 3
1 is a lady who enjoys working with her hands, with her mind, and with her physical strength in order to bless her household. In verse 13 we see where she enjoys working with her hands. She is skilled enough to discover the kind of wool and flax that will make good clothing for her family - and even possibly items that she could sell to others. When she discovers these things, she then delights in doing busy work - working hard with her hands as she makes things for others. This evidences both a willingness to work hard - and a willingness to make things for others rather than focus all her time upon herself. This she does "willingly" which is what the word "delight" means in this passage. It speaks of her as being a worker who does what she does not because of complusion or by being forced - but simply because she desires to do these things.
This blessed lady also delights in providing meals for her loved ones. These meals are not just the normal fare of everyday life - although I am sure that these are included in what she does for her family. Verses 14 reveals that she delights in "bringing her food from afar" like a merchant would do so. This paints a picture for us of how she delights to cook and provide meals for her family. She works hard at making things more exciting and varied for her husband and children. She is not focused on just the "ready-made" stuff that she can pick up in a box (although that was not the case in this day) - but she brings her food from even far off for the benefit of those she loves.
Verse 15 shows us that she uses her head as she manages a household not just with her family, but also her servants. She rises before dawn to make sure that all those in her care are blessed. This means not just her children, but even her servants. She is there to give sustenance to her family - but also to her maidens who work for her in the household.
Verse 16 shows us that this lady is also financially savvy. Here we see that she takes the time to consider a field in which she desires to plant a vineyard. Here she is making decisions that involve knowledge of agriculture and of real estate. What land would be best for the purpose of planting, tending, and therefore profiting from a vineyard. As she does this, we can see that from the earnings that she has already gained from previous wise financial decisions, she purchases land for a new venture. She is wanting to continue to prosper her family and is working toward that end. She is doing this with money "she" has earned - thus we see that her husband trusts her fully with financial means - and however she started these ventures - now she has earned sufficiently enough to pursue them solely on the basis of money she has earned doing other things.
What we come away with in all these verses about the godly woman is that she is not at all one-dimensional. Some would teach Proverbs 31
as if a godly woman is all about "God-stuff" like Bible study, prayer, etc. But such a division in an understanding of godliness and especially the godliness of this godly woman is a false dichotomy. Her life is more than just "church" activity. She is wise in every respect - religiously, financially, managerially, and even with a wonderful business sense. Thus we see that godliness covers far more than just the usual categorizations. This lady is wise in every respect. But then again maybe that is why she is praised so highly - because her benefit to the family covers a multitude of blessings that come to them from her.
Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer And
gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
Ants are good teachers for us when it comes to avoiding laziness and a lack of discipline in our lives. The father here uses ants to teach his son a lesson about avoiding the sin of laziness.
Having told his son to go to the ant and observe her ways - he says that wisdom is with these little creatures. Their great wisdom is how they work hard without having to be supervised. They have no chief, officer, or ruler watching over all that they do - making them work. The ant knows that there is a time when gathering won't be possible - so he works hard when he can. He also knows to store things up - to prepare for the times when there will be no food.
The lessons for us are numerous. First, we need to have a self-driven work ethic. This is an ability to work hard - even when no one is looking. It means that when we know what to do - we do it. We don't need someone looking over our shoulders - or standing over us making sure that we work hard. We are motivated from within to do that. When I talk to the businessmen in my congregation my heart aches for them. They say that it is so difficult to find people who want to work. They tell me that most of the people they interview have great expectations for what they will be paid and how they will be treated - but almost no work ethic to do what they should do. What is even more sad to me is that they tell me that this is the case whether they are non-christians or christians. That is an indictment that we should not have laid at the feet of the church. We should have a work ethic driven by a desire to honor God.
The second lesson is also important for us to grasp. We need to be wise in how we deal with our money - setting aside funds for times when things are lean. History warns us that these time will come. Over and over again there have been lean times for humanity. The wise who store up for those times are ready, while those who simply spend all that they get - are unprepared for such times. I am not saying that we should be like the foolish farmer who stored up an abundance - and was not rich toward God. But I am saying that just like there are those examples, there are also others where God wanted His people to be wise in setting aside things for a lean time. Joseph was such an example - and his wisdom in setting aside the blessings of God - kept an entire region of the world from starvation and devastation.
A wise man knows the value of hard work - and of frugality. Both are character traits that God encourages us to embrace. Even though such things are mocked by the world around us, we should continue to speak in praise of them - and more importantly practice them to our future preparation and blessing.