Proverbs 31 gives us a full-length picture of an intelligent, virtuous household administrator. Her worth is far more precious than jewels, and more valuable than rubies or pearls (Pr. 31:10). She is a strong, well-dressed, competent wife, mother, and astute businesswoman and money manager. She is a gift to her husband from the Lord (Pr. 19:14), subordinate to him, though not inferior. They are a man and woman in marriage covenant with God, their sole Redeemer. The husband is her head, she his helpmeet, in the exercise of replenishing and subduing the earth. They are “one flesh,” a new being, governed under the authority of God, taking dominion over every area of life for God’s glory (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8:6; Heb. 2:8).
This woman fears God and is focused in her decisions and disciplined in her actions. She is not irresponsible or disobedient in carrying out her husband’s wishes. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her “so that he has no lack of honest gain or need of dishonest spoil” (v. 11). He trusts her with their soul-secrets and is confident of her fidelity and care of the family. She does him good and not evil (v. 12), not just in the days of his life, but all the days of her life, having obviously purposed as a younger lady to live in the fear of the Lord. They both are blessed by her faithfulness to him and his confidence in her, even when they are absent from one another.
The virtuous woman is wise, not placated by simple mindedness, but knowing what to do and how to do it. She is not an unreasonable, emotional female, acting like a child, without a brain in her head! This godly woman looks for the finer materials of wool and flax (v.13), the bark fiber from which linen is woven and oil is produced. She seeks the best at the best price, setting an example of financial stewardship. The profit from her homespun items affords her choice selections of goods. She can be compared to merchant ships (v.14) transporting needed commodities into her household, powered by frugal economics.
She rises early, redeeming the time, knowing nothing of the hedge of thorns entangling the slothful woman. This virtuous woman prefers her duty rather than her ease (v. 15), giving food to her household, as well as her servants. Her righteous paths are plain, raised like a highway (Pr. 15:19).
“She considers a field and buys it” (v.16). Note that she does not purchase a field because it is pleasant to her eyes, nor does she buy the field without first considering it. Some of the considerable factors may have been: location, value, analysis of price, present and future use of the land, impact of other fields, property dimensions, topography, kinds of soil and rate of absorption, drainage, amount of rock present, appropriate ingress and egress, as well as resale. She is circumspect, not hasty or capricious. She is not pious and stupid, waiting for the wind to blow through her hair as some sort of sign that this property is the one for her. After considerable investigation, she purchases the field. She does not become servant to a lender (Pr. 22:7; Rom. 6:16), obligating herself to a backward focus until the debt is fully paid. She is not a tire-kicker, exploiting others, double-dealing, crying foul, foul, then going away bragging about the exceptional deal she obtained (Pr. 20:14).
From what she has earned she plants a vineyard out of the yield of her own diligent labor (v.16). Take note: It was not a turnip patch but a vineyard that she planted. She did not have her conscience bound by fundamentalist thinking that growing grapes for wine was evil. We have no reason to imagine that she neglected to enjoy the fruit of her labors. She obviously knew that a cordial of restorative refreshment is a gift of God, making the heart glad (Ps. 104:15). She understood Christian liberty and did not allow her weaker brother, or abusing drunkards, to rob her of honest industry.
She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong, strengthening herself for the duties before her (v.17). She is bold in sensing that her gain is good (v.18), not jealously looking around, begrudging what someone else has, accusing them of obtaining it dishonestly. She has a proper and accurate sense of her own accomplishments and does not look to others to build her up. “Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure.” (v. 25). Her business endeavors are more than an exercise in making do or just getting by. She is a woman of integrity, not clinging to a poverty mind or beggarly ways, trying to cheat others for the sake of a bargain. She stretches out her hands to the poor and needy (v. 20). It is here that we would expect her to employ no less consideration before sharing her wealth than she did in the investment of it. She would have made sure that the needs of the poor were indeed justifiable, having legitimacy as opposed to those who are lazy, squandering their talents.
The virtuous woman is not afraid of sudden perils of the weather for she and her family are well prepared. They enjoy coverings of fine tapestry, scarlet, silk and purple, which she has made with her own hands (v. 21-22). We will not find this woman either puffed up in arrogance nor shrinking from enjoying what she has gained by diligent work (Ec. 5:19). She does not consider herself unworthy to wear fine linen and purple, costly apparel worn by persons of wealth and importance (v. 22), nor does she store her clothing away waiting for a more worthy time and use.
The business management of this virtuous woman is of inestimable value. When she has sufficiently taken care of her family she sells belts and linen garments she has made (v. 24). She can smile at the future because strength of mind, courage, and dignity are her clothing (v. 25). Her focus is upon her own household, not lazily avoiding her duties or trying to take care of everyone else’s household, which is not her responsibility (v. 27). Her children are a testimony to her godliness. They take their stand beside her, blessing her for who she is and what she does. Her husband does also (v. 28). He is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land (v. 23), as either a ruler or a judge. She never sits in the gates but is known there by her good works.
As the lips of the wise disperse knowledge (Pr. 15:7), it is the virtuous woman who opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. It is more her good works than her good words that characterize her. She does not busy herself with self-denying guilt and self-abasement. She is a woman who fears God and knows it is He “who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17).
God did not give us a window through which we see this virtuous woman’s sins, or her diligence in prayer and Bible study. He has, however, shown us an example of a woman who ministered tirelessly, pressing on as an example of good works, being made rich by the diligence of her hand (Pr. 10:4). Her true wealth lay not in her financial abilities, her fine clothing, nor her real estate investments but in her fear and obedience to God.
- Ina Manly Painter
Ina Manly Painter has a Master of Science Degree in Educational/Counseling Psychology. She and her husband, Harrison, live in Knoxville , TN , where they have been affiliated with Re/Max Preferred Properties as REALTORS, for many years. They have four children, Paige, and wife Christa, Laura, Jared, and Amanda and one grandson, Caleb. They can be contacted by email at [email protected].