We often hear the term "Proverbs 31 Wife" thrown around by those of us struggling to be a statement unto Christ and a model of what He has called us to be, spiritually, to our husbands. I have a general idea, but do we really know, in detail, what we are called to say, do, act like, etc? Here is a simply worded breakdown to better visualize what God calls us to do as homemakers:
31 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
Well, unfortunately your husband probably already married a less-than virtuous woman but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can (and will) be transformed into that woman whose price is far above rubies. In any case, we are made aware here that the most desired quality is to be virtuous.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She does not make him believe that she might be adulterous, she does not make remarks about other men. She does not look at others or make him jealous. She belongs to him and him alone, and makes it clear with her respect and grace to him that he is her ONLY.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Her tongue does not oppress him; she does not belittle him. She encourages him and lifts him up.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
Women often get this idea that they are primarily supposed to sit around breastfeeding babies and then cook her husband dinner. But our work for our home is so far beyond those limited duties. We are to seek work with our hands! Have you ever wondered why you suddenly get the urge to sew random things? Or make random improvements to your home? Or make rabbit pens and raise meat rabbits? Maybe that last one is just me. Ever wonder why stay-at-home moms are so obsessed with Pinterest? It is ingrained in us to be useful, by some meaning of the word; there are many ways that we can be useful even if we do not work out of the home. After all, you are a continuation of your husband - a counterpart for his bidding. There is no need to wait until your husband gets home from his 10 hour work shift to ask him to mow the yard!
14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She does the grocery shopping.
No seriously though.
Being able to be resourceful, whether it is with food ( couponing and shopping sales, learning to gather and forage, making your own ___ ) or what have you, is a huge help for your family. I personally have a knack for animal husbandry and am learning to raise our own food (yay, me!) and I know that my husband views this self-sufficient style of feeding our family as a worthy trait in a wife.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
It's funny, because women are constantly pointing out how much work they must do. A mom's work is literally NEVER done and there honestly are just not enough hours in the day. It only makes sense that we would rise early to accomplish daily tasks and get a fresh start. There are many tasks that must really be accomplished before the other members of the household are up and about.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
I fervently believe that while we are commanded to stay submissive to our husbands, we are also obligated to spend his money. Don't laugh, I am not finished yet. I cannot even begin to describe my husband's delight when I have made a purchase that saves us money in the long run or that makes our lives run more smoothly or, best of all, allows us to make a profit. We should strive to consider fields, buy them, and plant vineyards! How can we justify staying home all day and occupying our time with the upkeep of our homely kingdom, and yet NOT strive to reduce or spending and multiply that which our husbands have earned? I have known so many women that stress about their finances. Yet another ingrained trait of women! But I do not believe it is God's intention for women to *stress* about bills. We should be good stewards of the money our husbands bring home and act as sound financial advisers to him! Women often have a closer walk with the Lord and to this point, we can be more in tune with what He is seeking for us financially. When you consider your fields, pray about it so that you can strengthen your marriage, your family, and increase your assets all around.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
A proverbs wife is not some lazy, unwitting baby-making machine. We should keep ourselves fit and healthy and prepared for the work we are required to do on a daily basis around our castles! If I may reiterate, you are an extension of your husband - being capable of doing the extra work he does not have time for is an uncommon virtue in women. Being feminine is great. But we are called to be that and more. When we were dating, I'm sure my husband loved it when I acted like I couldn't do anything for myself. I'm sure it was "cute" to him then. Now I have a family to tend to, and many responsibilities therein. If I couldn't chop wood or build necessary structures or move heavy furniture when needed, I would be falling short of what I need to accomplish as a wife.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
A proverbs wife is not just working hard in the early hours of the morning, but she is also working late into the night. She is doing much but also investing in the quality of what she is doing; because she does not just concern herself with accomplishing many menial tasks, but is concerned with doing what she can for her family - which is her top priority. A spindle and distaff are used to make
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
If we are all called to be generous, giving children of the Lord, why is it specifically mentioned for a wife in Proverbs that she should be giving to the poor? Probably because, again, we are stewards of our husband's money. I know of several times when there was someone in need and I had to choose to give, without my husband's consent. He was not there, so I was giving on behalf of my household. I know I am trusted with this because I have a Godly husband that knows how important those acts are, but it is equally important that I know how and when to handle instances of giving on his behalf.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Does your husband know that your children are taken care of plentifully when he is away at work? Or does he get home and worry because you didn't take the initiative to go out and buy them new jackets when last year's no longer fit? Or if there is no money allotted for jackets this year because things are tight financially, can he assume that you got free ones from a clothing swap or from a friend that was giving them away? You should trust yourself to take care of these things, so that he can have peace about it as well. The situation can change his mood like you would not believe. Imagine the difference; He comes home and you immediately let him know that the kids need winter clothes and how much it's going to cost and ask him to take care of it, or he comes home and you show him what you found on the local Freecycle page - saving the money and the stress of the whole situation. This can apply to any household needs!
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
A proverbs wife should have the desire and integrity to look like she cares about herself and her family. This tends to go doubly so for large families. When others see us, we have to look in a way that reflects our attitude. If we have not showered for a week and are found consistently wearing our pajamas to the grocery store, it reflects an attitude of not caring. Imagine how many times a woman with three or more children is told, "wow, you really have your hands full!" Our outward appearance is a non-verbal response to this statement. Which answer honors our husband the most? "Yes, my hands are full, and I have no time for myself, let alone time for you" or "I have my hands full and it keeps me joyfully busy and working hard."
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
A woman had a lot of power in her husband's reputation. It is not wise to speak poorly of him to others or allow him to be perceived in bad light. A wife should always build her husband up and perpetuate his reputation as a respectable, hard worker and an intelligent man. So when you hatefully post on facebook how worthless your husband is, you are really falling short of the proverbs scenario.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
These four verses speak to her character. She can make extra income for her family, she is strong and honorable, she is Godly and spiritual, she is wise, and kind, she does her job well and keeps herself busy! It's more in-line with what people associate with the "Proverbs wife" but is just a fraction of the guideline we are given.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many women think they are doing everything right, and that their families would not give them praise if their lives depended on it. You would be surprised though, when you do enact the virtues of a proverbs wife, how you might be recognized. This is a promised blessing. It doesn't say that if you are an amazing and miraculously perfect wife, your husband and children might praise you. It says that one of the evidences of a virtuous wife is being praised! I know this because my husband has praised me verbally when I really did not expect it from him, and it really encouraged me to work even harder.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
The ideal proverbs wife does not just do the bare minimum - she exceeds other wives in their abilities and accomplishments! This is not to say that being a proverbs wife is a competition. Think of it this way; if, out of 100 wives, 50 were doing "okay" at pleasing God and their families, and the other half were really going above and beyond their duties, which half would you like to be counted in? Don't settle spiritually.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
What is on the outside is temporary and fleeting. Real value lies in a woman who fears the Lord. As 1 Peter 3:1 speaks of a woman being able to bring her husband to God through her own faith and acts, one of the most valuable virtues you can possess as a wife is a true relationship with God that you can expose your husband to.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Her works speak for themselves; the fruits of a virtuous wife are recognizable - not only to her husband, children, and whomever she may come into contact with, but most importantly by Christ! The rewards of her virtues will be reaped on heaven as on earth!