“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her, so that he will have no lack of gain. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works willingly with her hand. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night, and gives food to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She clothes herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good; her candle does not go out by night. She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretches out her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothes with scarlet. She makes herself covering of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes fine linen and sells it, and delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and honor are her clothing, and she will rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the teaching of kindness. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; “Many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, 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.” Proverbs 31:10-31
“Wow!” We exclaim after reading the passage of scripture written of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. One might take a deep breathe after reading this passage, thinking how we could ever amount to all that this passage presents this woman to be. We read of things in this passage such as, “She also rises while it is yet night, and gives food to her household, and a portion to her maidens.” and “her candle does not go out by night.”
Reading the passage itself might exhaust us and confuse us, as we think about all of the burdens we currently have at our own hand. Perhaps as you read this, your infant is crying for you, your toddler and preschooler are fighting over a toy, laundry is piling up along with the dishes, you did not get enough sleep last night, and it is almost time to cook dinner and you feel as though the day has just begun. Maybe you are feeling invisible and minuscule, that you accomplish nothing of importance, and you wonder how you can get all you currently have on your plate done, as well as, try to add more to be able to imitate this woman in the book of Proverbs, whom is worth far more than rubies.
We live in a culture that promotes to us ideas such as, “Be True To Yourself”, “Do What Makes You Happy”, “Treat Yo’ Self” (had to throw in a laugh there), “Me Time!”, “Follow Your Heart”, “Follow Your Dreams”, “Find Yourself”, and so on and so forth, all with the same message and central focal point of “self”. The issue with this is that it is very opposite of the self denial that scripture teaches us.
You may be wondering what the secular promotion of self and the biblical teaching of self denial has to do with becoming like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. I believe that it has a lot to do with becoming more like her. Our culture is raising young girls to think in only a “self” manner. They are being taught that this view of finding their purpose and following their dreams and to pursue their hearts is the only matter that will make them happy. However, to the contrary, we find that Scripture teaches the following:
“24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26
We fight for our time, our freedom and our quiet, so we can pursue our own goals and dreams and wants, to follow our hearts and emotions, when in actuality, the Bible says:
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21-22 .
Our first step in becoming more like the Proverbs 31 woman and in finding joy in this season of motherhood is this: to deny ourselves and to follow after Christ.
How can we keep our lamp aflame at night to care for the well being of our entire household, human, animal, upkeep included, if we are fighting for our right to our free time? How can we speak with kindness and wisdom upon our tongues if we are so upset and flustered in our hearts because we can never catch a break, that we can never enjoy anything that we want to do? All of this contention above would be due to our own inward thinking of self.
“16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:16
I found the word disorder, such a perfect word to use in the light of this Scripture, for how our homes might be if we are acting from selfish ambition in our own hearts. We may be filling up our plates with too many activities, desires, goals and plans from our own selfish ambitions, rather than doing the work that would prosper what God has put in our hands and what He requires of us. We may be fighting for too much of our own free time, and relaxation, that we are too close to becoming the idle woman that Proverbs 31 says not to be. We may be acting out with unkindness and harsh words towards those in our home, because within we are battling with the will of the Lord and with the will of the popular opinion of “Me”.
How can we find joy in the never ending tasks at hand of being a wife, mother, and a home maker, while denying our emotions and our self indulgences? We find this joy in loving God. And to love God is this,
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
I encourage you my beloved sisters, whom are imagining all of the work that they have to accomplish and are feeling unqualified to do such tasks, who feel as though they are not able to do all of their work at hand, that you are absolutely correct in your thinking. We cannot by our own strength do this task.
“5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:5-11
Ah! And there it is, “and that your joy may be full.” Deny your self, abide in Christ.. and “your joy may be full.”
Puritan Pastor and Theologian, Jeremiah Burroughs, says this,
“Thereby the soul comes to rejoice and take satisfaction in all God’s ways; I beseech you to notice this. If a man is selfish and self-love prevails in his heart, he will be glad of those things that suit with his own ends, but a godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God’s ends. A gracious heart says, God’s ends are my ends and I have denied my own ends; so he comes to find contentment in all God’s ends and ways, and his comforts are multiplied, whereas the comforts of other men are single. It is very rare that God’s way shall suit with a man’s particular end, but always God’s ways suit with his own ends. if you will only have contentment when God’s ways suit with your own ends, you can have it only now and then, but a self-denying man denies his own ends, and only looks at the ends of God and therein he is contented. When a man is selfish he cannot but have a great deal of trouble and vexation, for if I regard myself, my ends are so narrow that a hundred things will come and jostle me, and I cannot have room in those narrows ends of my own.”
I leave you with these two passages to encourage you in your tasks that will be at hand after closing this article.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” Philippians 2:1-11
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24