Keepers at Home

The Virtuous Woman

The woman of Proverbs 31.

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            "Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies."  Thus begins Proverbs 31:10 and the description of the "virtuous woman."  To find a woman who is virtuous concerning God's righteousness and sees to the needs of her household is truly a tremendous find in our day and age.  The same could be said for the time in which Solomon wrote these words.  To find a woman whose virtue rests and trusts in God's righteousness and glory is one of the most valued things a man can come across during his lifetime.  "For her price is far above rubies," Solomon writes.  Indeed, he is correct in his evaluation.  A woman of this kind is worth more than any treasure found on this earth.

            Many have found strength and encouragement from the words in Proverbs that describe such a woman.  In fact, he is painting a very poetic vision of a woman who tends to the needs of her family in the most unselfish manner.  So many women can turn to these words for solace and exhortation and for a good example of the life of a woman who is focused on God and upon her family.

            For the sake of our study it is important to look at the entire passage in Proverbs 31:10-31:

                        Who can find a virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies.  The

                        heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need

                        of spoil.  She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.  She

                        seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.  She is like

                        the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.  She riseth also while

                        it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her

                        maidens.  She considereth a field, and buyeth it:  with the fruit of her hands

                        she planteth a vineyard.  She girdeth her loins with strength, and

                        strengtheneth her arms.  She perceiveth that her merchandise is good:  her

                        candle goeth not out by night.  She layeth her hands on the spindle, and her

                        hands hold the distaff.  She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she

                        reacheth forth her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of the snow for

                        her household:  for all her household are clothed in scarlet.  She maketh

                        herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.  Her husband

                        is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.  She

                        maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

                        Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

                        She openeth her mouth with wisdom:  and in her tongue is the law of

                        kindness.  She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not

                        the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up, and call her blessed; her husband

                        also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou

                        excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain:  but a woman

                        that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

            The description is of a woman who is continually working hard for the needs of her family.  She is ready at any given moment to assist, aid, and protect those of her household.  She is so good at this that her husband and children bless her because of her goodness and righteousness.  She is busy and does not become entangled in idle behavior or practice.  Her duty is to her household and she does it with energy and vigor so that all in her house will have this protection and love.

            Many have taken a few of these verses to defend and uphold the practice of Christian women working outside the house with a full-time job or career.  The verses used for this are:  13, 19, and 24.  For the purpose of this study we will list them again:

                        13:  She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

                        19:  She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

24:  She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

These verses are used by those who propagate the philosophy and practice that a woman can work a full-time job outside of the home.  The justification lies in the fact that these verses demonstrate a woman who is industrious and helps make money for the family.  We see that the virtuous woman works with her hands and is active with a product for the purpose of selling it to make money.

            Obviously the virtuous woman is not lazy.  By no means is she lax in her attitude and behavior toward her household.  She is busy and works very hard for the needs of her family members.  The question of this study is not can a woman work--it is utterly obvious that she will--but just exactly what kind of work can a Christian woman do?  To "make a living" many Christian individuals have sought out support for a woman working full-time jobs and have found their "answers" in Proverbs 31; however, it is very important to note the difference in working with your hands and selling goods to merchants in town and working an 8-10 hour day in an office or a business of some kind.  The contention is still that the woman is not being a "keeper at home" as Titus 2 instructs.

            We see the virtuous woman making money from garments she has made.  How is this used to support working outside of the home in a career-oriented job?  If this passage is to be taken literally, then we see that women need to specifically be crafting things with their own hands to sell to help make money for the family.  Is this passage to be taken literally?  If so, then the virtuous woman needs to have her children clothed in "scarlet" and she herself need to be wearing "silk and purple."  Also, she is to be the first one up in the morning to feed all in her house.  She is to never let her candle go out at night.  But, those that want to support the concept of women working outside of the home use these scriptures figuratively and as a metaphor for the Christian woman.  In this way these supporters can stretch the meaning and interpretation of this passage to justify women working outside of the home and away from their household.

            Proverbs 31:27 states:  "She looketh well to the ways of her household…."  How can she if she is looking to the ways of the job she has?  There is no way that a woman who holds a full-time position in our working world can look well to the ways of her house.  It is not possible.  It will never be possible.  Washing clothes, preparing meals, and vacuuming the floor does not define what "keeper at home" means.  It never will.  If the virtuous woman is to look after her household, then she must have a base of operations at her house--Proverbs 31 supports this.  That is just simple common sense in analyzing the scriptures.  A woman who is working full-time away from her home is not a keeper of her household. 

So, if that is true, then it stands to reason that this type of woman is not virtuous at all, but worldly.  If she is not virtuous, she is not worth more than rubies.  She is not fulfilling her role that God established for her and is sinning against His will for her and her life.  There is no other way to state this.

            The virtuous woman is very industrious in her endeavors.  She makes "fine linen" and sells it, she lays her "hands to the spindle," and she seeks out "wool and flax" which she will use to makes these clothes to sell.  There is no denying that Solomon describes a woman who is very busy and devotes some of her energy to commercial activities; however, it is important to note that she is doing this from and for the household.  She is not doing this to make a living or to pursue a career to enjoy the achievements of that career.  She works for the household  because that is her duty and privilege that was bestowed upon her by God.  She is righteous and follows the ways of the Lord.  She protects her children, loves her husband, and sees to the needs of them all.

            The last key verse to note is the thirtieth:  "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain:  but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."  The virtuous woman's worth is not based on the favor she provides a man or the physical beauty she possesses, but in the fact that she fears the Lord.  This type of woman is the one to be praised and valued above all others.  Proverbs 1:7 states:  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:  but fools despise wisdom and instruction."  The virtuous woman fears God because she is wise and follows good instruction.  Her heart rests in the fact that she fears the Lord and endeavors to please Him in her life, her relationships, and her efforts.  Solomon says that a woman who is good with favor or is beautiful to look upon is of no worth, but the woman who fears God will be praised.  This concept of searching for God's will instead of our own is at the very core of this study and is important to note here in Proverbs.  Of all the things that the virtuous woman does, it is her fear of God that brings her praise in His sight.  God values this in the Christian woman.  He wants and expects the Christian woman to seek His righteousness first in her life.  He wants her to obey Him in His decisions for her life and her work.

            To suggest that Proverbs provides sufficient justification for Christian women seeking full-time employment away from their household is ludicrous.  It is bordering on blatant blasphemy of the word of God.  There is no other way to put it.  When we are dealing with God's word we cannot sugar-coat or soften its strength.  To do so means that we disagree with God's will for our lives and are searching for a better way to suit ourselves and our lusts and still find a way to call it just.  This cannot be done when dealing with the word of God.  We have an obligation to study and follow the guidelines that He has established according to His wisdom, not our own.  Those who seek in Proverbs for the "loophole" are searching in vain.  It does not exist.  Proverbs supports the concept of the woman being connected to her household and doing all that she can to maintain it.  Remember:  all of God's word will support each other and not contradict. 

            If she is not there, how can she do it?  The answer is that she cannot.  Her assistance to her husband is noble and described as "virtuous" in Proverbs.  When she leaves the home to work a full-time job, she is neglecting her home, husband, and children.  A career for a woman is not important to God.  In fact, "keepers at home" states otherwise.  Proverbs 31 does not address in its poetic vision of the woman working full-time outside of the home.

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