Proverbs 31 Woman: Verses 14 – 17

Proverbs 31 14 - 17Today, I started my Bible Study more than a little afraid. I have this bad tendency to shift the focus of tough stuff from me to someone else, and yesterday’s blog post had me worried. As I opened up the book, I couldn’t help wondering if all I’d get from it would be, “Oh, this would be a good point for the blog!” or “This totally applies to that situation So-and-so has.” Thankfully, Someone made sure to get my total attention. Here’s what I discovered today!

Verse 14:

ETR – “She is like a ship from a faraway place. She brings home food from everywhere.”

NIV – “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”

NKJV – “She is like the merchant ships. She brings her food from afar.”

TM – “She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.”

At first, I was completely confused. Does this virtuous woman just have a great culinary cookbook? If that’s the case, then I’ve got this down pat! We eat Italian food, Mexican food, Greek food, American food, Asian food…. But that seemed too simple, too shallow for a poem devoted to what a Godly woman looks like. “A Godly woman makes food.” It didn’t seem quite what I was supposed to get… And while I personally love the traditional role of housewife, I didn’t think God would pigeon-hole women into this role.

Then, I looked at all the translations together. “She is like the merchant ships.” These ships traveled the world, seeing cultures and meeting people completely foreign to their culture of origin. She “brings back exotic surprises.” I especially love that, those “exotic surprises.” Think about it: we all love when family or friends bring us little souvenirs from their travels abroad, even if it’s just some true Mexican tequila from just across the border. It’s something new. Something foreign. Something exciting. It’s something outside of our comfort zone. And that is what this woman does. She brings her family outside of their comfort zone. Whether it’s via a curry dish that is completely different from their usual ketchup and mustard hot dogs or something deeper, like inviting the neighbors across the hall to go on a play date to the park, she is the instigator for family growth. She refuses to stay stagnant, and pushes the family to stretch themselves and experience new things.

Verse 15 –

ETR – “She wakes up early in the morning, cooks food for her family, and gives the servants their share.”

TM – “She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.”

NKJV – “She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants.”

NIV – “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.”

The first section is pretty straight forward. She wakes up before everyone else and gets started on her day. Laziness is not in her vocabulary. No snooze button for this noble woman. No eye peeking at the sunrise, wishing it was just a little farther off. No, she wakes up and is willing to start her day. The second part, however, about the “maidservants” seemed a little strange and archaic to me. Yet the only translation that didn’t include it was the Message. So, I searched through commentaries until I found an explanation. If she had maidservants to feed, that meant she was wealthy. If she was wealthy, she could have had the servants do these early morning chores for her and just slept in herself. She, however, doesn’t do that. She wakes up and has a humble, compassionate heart. She doesn’t act any differently than a woman with no servants. She doesn’t lord her position over anyone else, and cares for her family herself (though I’m sure she did delegate during the day). And, she has compassion on those under herself. She didn’t have to make them food while she made her family food, but she chose to show them kindness by caring for them as well. She is a woman with a servant’s heart, willing to care for those who should by all rights be caring for her.

Verse 16 –

ETR – “She looks at land and buys it. She uses the money she has earned and plants a vineyard.”

NIV – “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

NKJV – “She considers a field and buys it, from her profits she plants a vineyard.”

TM – “She looks over a field and buys it, the, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.”

This is one of my favorite verses, but I often take it out of context. A virtuous woman is financially savvy. She carefully inspects this plot of land before she buys it, and then she uses money she saved up to plant a vineyard, something that will increase in value and bring in higher profits as each year goes by. She doesn’t just buy the first lot shown to her. I picture her in her flowing silk outfit looking over field after field, rubbing her chin, narrowing her eyes, and asking so many questions the real estate agent begins to get frustrated. She’s so particular! But she has in her mind what she wants the field for, so she knows what she wants within it. Then, once she has found the perfect field, she uses her savings to invest in it. Notice, it’s her own savings, not her husband’s. So, she has had the foresight to save up for just such an investment. She is repeating those earlier verses, being a blessing to her husband’s wealth, not a burden. She finally uses that savings to plant a vineyard, something that will produce fruit and probably wine. And we all know how wine grows finer with age. Each year that goes by as she tends to that field, it will produce more and more, increasing her profit. What’s more, her husband trusted her to be able to make such a huge purchase.

I like to take it out of context, though, and fuel my money hoarder. She sits inside my heart and cackles as more coins fall in, as my heart hardens more and more to greed. That is not a virtuous woman. As I’m learning, a small amount for spending money is necessary to keep the heart open. It isn’t a burden on a marriage for each partner to have those few things that they frivolously spend on, as long as there is still foresight. I can go get my hair done after saving up for a while because it’s an investment in my self-esteem (healthily) and because it’s something just for me. If I were to get my hair done regularly and my nails done weekly and buy expensive make-up and clothes all the time, that would be a drain on our resources and completely self-centered. The opposite is also true. If I hoard my money because I’m too proud and too much a self-induced martyr to splurge on myself, I am also self-centered.

This verse was especially difficult for me this time around, because this is the first time that I am intentionally not bringing any money into the house. I’ve done up some numbers just for heck’s sake, and technically I bring in about $2000 worth of savings from daycare costs, gas, etc. but those things don’t show up in the physical numbers. Often, I feel like I’m not contributing, and I’m not investing. I forget, though, that investments are not just financial. Just like this virtuous woman planted a vineyard rather than opened a ROTH IRA, my decision to stay home is another kind of investment, one that is just as valid as monetary investment. While some women invest in their families by creating future financial stability, I am investing in my family by forgoing the money I could earn to give them a permanent caretaker, stability, and moral investments that will grow in the future. Both are great, and neither is better or worse than the other.

Verse 17 –

ETR – “She works very hard. She is strong and able to do all her work.”

TM – “First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.”

NIV – “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

NKJV – “She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.”

The New King James Version threw me for a loop. Though I like to think I’m a little more literarily advanced than some (and thus entitled to make up new words like “literarily”), I realized I didn’t know exactly what “gird” meant. My trusty Webster-Mirriam Dictionary defined “to gird” as “to encircle or bind with a belt or band, to surround; enclose; hem in,” or “to prepare (oneself) for action.” The NKJV paints this beautiful literary picture of a woman not only literally dressing herself for the day, like the Message translation, but also of a woman who surrounds herself with strength. And lest we overlook the act of dressing for the day, consider this: what do you feel like when you slip on those comfy pj pants or “fat jeans” and a slouchy t-shirt? This is my go-to outfit most days, and so the thought of dressing for how I envision the day was convicting. I was dressing for lazing around the house, not leaving the indoors, and not really doing much more than computer surfing. I wasn’t being intentional about my day, starting with the way I dressed. When I worked as a Mary Kay consultant, my director constantly encouraged us to wake up and get dressed as if we were headed to an MK party: business skirt, nice blouse (note: blouse, not t-shirt), and make-up put on. She would even put her pantyhose and shoes on. (Yes, she was under 30. I’m actually surprisingly fond of pantyhose.)  She was dressing for the day she envisioned: a day as a professional businesswoman, selling product she believed in and delivering as polished of a message as she dressed. It just doesn’t feel the same to try and sell a product like that dressed in yoga pants, scrunchie-tied hair, and I-just-woke-up-with-drool-on-my-face “make-up.”

Second, I realized that I literally do. not. have. strength. Mentally, physically, or spiritually, I often greet my day wishing it was some other kind of day (like a beach and a Cocoa Loco kind of day). I don’t surround myself in the one strength I can always depend on, and that I often need to fix my human lack of strength. The days I don’t do a Bible Study are glaringly obvious. I am cranky. I get angry quicker. I have no patience or normal kid things, and I cannot stand my husband doing what he does. The days that I do surround myself with God’s strength, I am calmer, more at peace, and much more capable of handling the everyday mayhem that comes with life. And I physically don’t have the strength to go throughout my day. Just 6 years ago, I could keep up with kids all day long, giving piggyback rides, reading book after book, playing tag, being firm with discipline. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a good exhaustion born from actual hard work. Now, I have bursts of energy that last less than 30 minutes usually, and my kids are left playing by themselves as mommy catches her breath with a cup of coffee. I physically don’t have the strength. I am not in shape to do my job. If my job were sitting behind a desk, I’d be fine. I’m not massively obese or really any worse than most women my age, but I am not where I need to be.

 

So, here are some questions to ponder:

Do I push myself to break out of my comfort zone? Do I help or hinder my family’s growth?

Do I get up early and begin my day by caring for my family, or do I wake up with my own needs and desires at the forefront of my mind?

Am I wise with my money, investing and saving it so I am a blessing to my family? Or, am I wasting money I earn on things that won’t last because I won’t plan for the future?

Do I wake up eager to begin my day, or am I reluctant to roll out of bed? Do I surround myself with spiriual and mental strength? Am I physically able to do my job to my best ability?

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