“A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: “Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!” Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (Proverbs 31)
It’s foolish to read this as a To-Do list and then to beat yourself up at your own inadequacies (whatever your gender!).
Or to immediately imagine some other person who seems to fit the bill more than you think you do. “Comparison is the death of joy” said a wise Mark Twain.
No. You have to be yourself,and you have to be real about it.
But perhaps the place to start is at the end of the passage and then work backwards. “The woman who lives in the fear of God” is to be admired. Well,I can do that!
Of course, “fear” doesn’t mean anxiety or trepidation. It means acknowledgement of God’s place in my life. It means honouring Him and living my life in a frank awareness of His loving, fathering lordship.
That’s really the key to everything. I’m not going to be anxious or worried about what the neighbours think because His approval is all I seek. And I have it!
I’m not even going to seek my husband’s approval (in a kind of cringing, needy way), because he “trusts [me] without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.” Why does he do that? Because my first loyalty is to our mutual Lord. We are in this together, in love and standing holding hands before our Lord. There’s no pecking order here, no chain of command, just the acknowledgement of God’s place as “Our Father.”
And this gives room -so much room- for all the wonderfully described life of the whole passage. Do you see it? It’s like a lord and lady of the manor who have been given everything so that they can give it away!
It’s a picture of fruitfulness. Once you acknowledge God (according to Psalm 1) there is joy and blessing upon you. You’re planted by the riverbank and you bear fruit in every season. With your children, there is the giving and receiving of respect. Life itself is “busy and productive” – it has purpose and intentionality. The very words that I speak can be generous because God has been generous to me! “When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.”
And because of that acknowledgement of God, (that every-new-morning opening of my heart and voice like a dawn chorus of praise) then His favour is over me like a shield. And somehow there is always enough and to spare. I can be “quick to assist anyone in need.” I’m equipped to reach “out to help the poor.”
And here’s the wonderful phrase that encapsulates all this appreciation of God’s goodness: “She senses the worth of her work.” There is nothing wasted, not one thing. All the fragments will be gathered up and there will be baskets of leftovers! If you live and love in the “fear of God” then your life is never trivial, or wasted or lacking purpose or direction.
Once you sense the presence of your Father, you sense the worth of your work.