Proverbs 31:16-29 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.
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.
Proverbs 31:18-19 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.
The 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 excel at them. The result of tasting 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, and 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 spindle 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.
He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. Proverbs 11:26
Today's proverb is fascinating to me because it addresses an abuse that often happens in the area of economics. This abuse, though a proven way to make money, results in the inflation of prices for food. What has happened over the course of economic history is that when this is done - and it reaches a critical level in food prices - it leads to riots and in some cases the overthrow of a government.
Our proverb speaks of one who has much grain. Here is a man who has worked hard and labored to produce a crop on his farm. As a result he has a large amount of grain. He can choose to withhold grain from the people and not sell it. By doing this he will drive the price of grain up due to a scarcity of grain in the market place. This will make him very wealthy, but in time it will backfire on him. The people, who need grain, will begin to curse him because his actions are preventing them from eating - or is making it to where being able to provide food is becoming very expensive. The cost is not coming due to natural reasons such as a flood or drought or crop failure. The added cost is coming due to a man's greed. But for the man who sells his grain there will be a blessing - not just a financial one - but one from God Himself. This proverb allows us to consider the whole area of how Biblical authority addresses economic theory.
In our day it is considered a wise business move to hold on to goods until they wind up in short supply. This allows the person who has them to artificially inflate the price of what they sell so that they can make huge profits from it. Such actions eventually become accepted business practices on larger levels so that embargos are used by nations to boost the price of their domestic products. In time groups of businesses form consortiums that try to corner an entire market so that they can set the price wherever they want. The government then steps in a tries to enforce what they call "social justice." They impose restrictions on businesses so that things will be fair. The problem is that in time the government oversteps their bounds and corruption within the government (due to the sin nature in all of us) begins to crystalize. It is then that officials learn how to use their power to corner their own political markets and do the very thing they initially were trying to prevent in the public sector. The problem throughout all this is that the poor are hurt the most by such practices.
Some think wrongly that the end of all labor is to make money. But Scripture militates against that philosophy. God desires us to work hard and be diligent to make a profit - but - He also desires for us to be compassionate in the process. This sets up a very interesting tension in life and in the economic theory that governs Bible-believing Christians. At one end is the philosophy of pure Capitalism. This philosophy functions under the idea that life is about the profit motive at all times. But God warns against a "love of money" which He says is a root of all sorts of evil. At the other end is Socialism and Communism. This philosophy functions under the assumption that a government should rule over all land and production efforts. Their goal is then to take all profits and distribute them equally to all the people. Both of these extremes will fail.
Pure Capitalism will fail because greed will so rule men's hearts that they will lack compassion for others - and especially for the poor. In time their greed will consume them with a desire for more and more profit - and an insatiable desire for more and more wealth. In the process they will shut their hearts to the plight of the poor. This will lead to greater levels of abuse of the poorest - who will then curse those who have the economic power - and will ultimately lead to revolution and the overthrow of those who have the wealth and power in society.
Communism and Socialism will fail because of greed as well. Though such economic philosophies sound wonderful at the outset, they fail because of several factors. First, there is no man who is not fallen. When given the power to confiscate the wealth of a society, they will NOT distribute it equally. They will eventually treat themselves well - and let the rest of society live on the rest. This has happened in every situation when such an economic system prevails. Their goals may sound lofty, but their practices wind up eerily similar to the captialist. Second, there is no motive in this system to work. Actually there is a motive - to do what you do for the good of all others in the collective society. But this equates good as distributing things equally among all in the society. This will not work in a fallen world because over time some will sinfully decide that if they don't work hard - or at all - they will still get an equal part of the collective pie. Others who intially work hard - will be greatly discouraged that it is their hard work that is allowing the lazy, the undisciplined, and the slothful to live just as they do. In time there will be an equality - but it will be an equality of poverty and want - because no one will be motivated to work to the best of their ability. No matter how hard they work - they only get the same part of the collective's goods. These will never be enough for collective prosperity because sinfulness will move many to barely work at all - or at a level where they are forced to work.
The system God will bless is one that encourages and rewards hard work and industriousness. This is captialism - but there must be a restraint in this system as well, if it is to succeed. This is what I call "Compassionate Captialism." It is a system where the profit motive and self-interest is encouraged. But it is also a system that values compassion and kindness. Where a profit and self-interest motive might move a man to withhold grain so he can make an obscene profit - he does not do it. He is moved by the desire to serve those who buy his grain. Understanding this he chooses to sell his grain - not just for a profit - but for a profit that also allows those who are poor to be able to afford to feed their families. In the end, this man is blessed with profit - and also is blessed with the favor of God for acting with kindness and compassion toward those who can easily be taken advantage of by the system. He chooses a wise profit level rather than one driven by greed alone. This promotes peace and the welfare of all those in the market.
It is fascinating to see the wisdom of God address all areas of life. One would not readily think that the Word of God would be a good place to learn economic principles. Yet when we read and mediatate on God's Word - immeasurable benefit is gained from it. Oh, that we would not divorce academic pursuit from the queen of the sciences - theology. May God gives us wisdom to see that His perspective is best in all academic and lifestyle pusuits. Then we can be blessed - not just a religious context - but in all of life.
Proverb a Day
Each day, we'll take a look at a verse from the chapter of Proverbs for the day. Our hope is to gain wisdom each day - and from that wisdom - to have understanding to make godly decisions in the throes of everyday life.
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