Posted in theology

But the Proverbs 31 woman had a career!

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

For a Christian woman to choose a career outside the home that voids her duties at home is sin and bad for the family. The Bible outlines that a wife’s role is to be helpmeet to the husband and mom to the kids, very present and involved, totally focused in raising the little humans and serving the husband, serving at home- if at all possible.

This stance always receives heat. The women who are opposing this doctrine say the verses I share to support this stance are taken out of context (like the woman’s comment below). Or they try to claim the verses don’t really say what they say. Yes, they do say what they say.

That one often gets thrown into the conversation at some point. “But, but, but the Proverbs 31 woman!” Liberal women and feminists like to claim that the Proverbs 31 woman was a self-sufficient sharp business woman who grew her business AND who incidentally had kids and a husband. They say that the Proverbs 31 woman busted that glass ceiling, was an entrepreneur extraordinaire, and who did it all- had a fulfilling career while managing her house.

Is that what’s really going on here? The Proverbs 31 woman as a model of professional career woman? Let’s take a closer read on this woman.

Proverbs 31 opens with King Lemuel (probably Solomon) dispensing to the son in wisdom some life lessons. That’s verses 1-9. Verse 10 begins advice on the qualities of a proper wife. Please note that the oracle is delivered by King Lemuel but he ascribes the wisdom to his mother.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says of verse 31:1-9 “When children are under the mother’s eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children.

The first thing the King says is that the son should find a woman who fears the Lord. Fearing the Lord means a healthy reverence for Him mixed with gratitude and knowledge of our position before Him: justified sinner saved by grace.

Albert N. Martin wrote: “There was a time when even the unconverted would refer to a Christian as a “God fearing man.” With this theme so prominently and frequently mentioned throughout the Scripture—both Old and New Testaments—it is regrettable that in our day it can be rare for a sermon to be preached on this most important topic, let alone an entire series.

The God-fearing women, too.

Then we read in Proverbs 31:10-11 her worth. Verse 12 picks up with what she does that earned her such laudatory language:

She deals bountifully with him for good and not evil All the days of her life.

‘Him’ means the husband. This begins the umbrella for the actions the wife takes on behalf of her husband and family. What is the “good” she does him? Proverbs goes on with specific examples of the “good” she does the husband. Gill’s Exposition explains:

she will seek his interest, and promote his honour and glory to the uttermost; all the good works she does, which she is qualified for, and ready to perform, are all done in his name and strength, and with a view to his glory; nor will she do any evil willingly and knowingly against him

The Proverbs 31 wife focuses on the husband’s good to the extent that she even sacrifices her self. (Ephesians 5:24). Women today say, “but, but what about her identity!?” Our identity is in Christ, the husband’s is too. (Romans 21:1, Luke 9:23). His identity is so submissive to Christ he would be ready to give himself up for his wife. (Ephesians 5:25). The Bible calls upon all of us to self-sacrifice for Christ. We all do so, just in different ways. It is difficult to focus on your husband’s well-being to the extent shown in verse 12 if you also have an outside job.

DISCLAIMER: I am not saying it’s sin for a wife/mom to hold an outside job. It is not. Many circumstances dictate a family’s personal decision for a Christian wife to work outside the home. I AM saying that if at all possible (and all things are possible with God) that the Bible says that wife, especially when she has kids, should strive to make it her priority to be at home with the kids and to serve the household as her primary orientation. Like a compass needle pointing north as the default.

EPrata photo

Now, the chapter goes into details of the wife’s daily tasks. Verse 13 says:

“She searches for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight.”

While our tasks may be different today than in Bible days, for example we don’t spin wool to make clothes, but we do drive to the store with the kids in tow so they can get new pants. Below is a description of how a Proverbs woman spun wool.

In spinning, the distaff is held tightly against the woman’s body by her left arm. So constant an occupation is spinning, that many women have loops sewed to the left side of their dresses to provide additional support for the handle of the distaff. Wool is spun in a variety of thicknesses, the left hand pulling the desired amount of fibers from the mass of wool and the right hand spinning the spindle in a clockwise direction.

In other words, her hands were always busy. Verse 14b says,

She brings her food from afar

This means rather than settling for the easier option and convenience of a more expensive foodstuffs nearby, she will expend energy to go afar to get a better price or quality.

And she rises while it is still night, And gives food to her household And a portion to her young women.

Women have said to me that here, since the Proverbs 31 wife has servants, that gives her time to have a career. Well, first of all it was a royal household. Second, it was common for households of any size or status to have servants. Modern women who make this claim forget that we ALL have servants. Our lives are easier than the Prov 31 wife. Her backbreaking work of washing laundry (no running water, gather the water, gather the wood, light a fire, boil water, stick your hands in boiling water and scrub on washboard…) is representative of just one task. We have servants in the form of cars, washing machines, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, dry cleaners, etc. Having maidservants does not mean she had time for a career. Despite having maidservants, this wife still gets up early and works for the household.

She makes plans for a field and buys it; From the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

As we saw in the verse above about bringing her food from afar, the Proverbs 31 wife is careful with money. She wants to contribute financially to the household without it impacting the household. We know this because “she looks well to the ways of her household” verse 27. She appears to have a skill in agriculture she’s decided to employ. She doesn’t buy the first field she sees, but makes a plan. She’s prudent.

We know she gets up early but we see next she works late into the night. ‘Her lamp does not go out’ (verse 18) is not meant literally. No one can work 24 hours straight, but it’s figurative to show she is industrious in doing for her household and the people in it. This wife has worked hard to ensure warm clothing for the cold season,

She makes linen garments and sells them, And gives belts to the tradesmen.

Linen was difficult to make and expensive. That she has extra to sell shows her diligent productivity. Like, do you have an Etsy shop? Same. But she is also generous, giving to the poor.

The Proverb concludes:

She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
As for her husband, he also praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done excellently,
But you have gone above them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears Yahweh, she shall be praised.
Give to her from the fruit of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

An honest reading does not allow room for the wife described in this proverb to have two careers, one as a professional woman somewhere in the economy, and another at home. An honest reading would show the reader that the Proverbs 31 wife works at home, near the home, for the home. Her excursions to the marketplace are to buy food, get flax, or to sell her wares. She has a vineyard, many of you ladies have a garden, do canning, or preserving. Some of you give away some extra at church, being generous, or even sell a bit extra on Facebook marketplace.

This activity is vastly different from the “CEO ministry” wives and moms of today running their own non-profit corporation working 40-50 hours a week outside the home, according to their statements on tax records.


In Praise of the Virtuous Woman
“This poem is an acrostic. Although the object of praise is the virtuous woman, the original audience of the piece was again the young man. The opening question in 31:10 implies that the reader ought to find such a wife for himself. The woman is trustworthy (31:11), industrious (31:13–19), intelligent (31:16, 18), and kind (31:20). She adds dignity to the family (31:23, 25) and has much foresight and prudence (31:21, 26). For all this she is much loved in her family and is the real center of the home (31:27–29). Above all she fears God (31:30).”

The final verse speaks eloquently against the tendency to regard her role as of inferior significance.” Holman Bible Handbook (pp. 358–359).

Being a wife, serving one’s husband, if God so gifts a woman, is God’s work. Being a mom and staying home to raise them, should God bless a wife, is God’s work. It’s not less-than. It might feel menial, and it is sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. The Proverbs woman DID have a career: wife and mom.

Further Reading

Posted in theology

Do you make your husband known at the gate?

By Elizabeth Prata

I was raised by an unbelieving feminist who taught that a woman’s calling is to be out in the world, making a name for herself. “You can do anything” it was said.

Except houswifery. THAT was definitely not part of the ‘anything’ a woman could become. No, never that.

I often wondered about this hypocritical stance, especially since housewifery seemed good. (I still wasn’t saved, but the notion of keeping a house for my husband was cozy to me). No, a woman should be in the world, marching, yelling, claiming, staking, pushing.

This was the vaunted ideal in the 1960s and ’70s:

Continue reading “Do you make your husband known at the gate?”
Posted in theology

Culture calls this a dirty word

By Elizabeth Prata

There are two worlds. The seen and the unseen. The world and the heavens. The devil’s kingdom and the Messiah’s. That’s it.

We will never get an unsaved person to believe this, because these things are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)

It is nonetheless true. Other truisms come with this knowledge, such as the fact that the world systems vs the heavenly kingdom each have its own unique vocabulary. Nowhere is this more spelled out than in Isaiah 5:20, which reads,

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Matthew Henry says of the Isaiah verse,

Continue reading “Culture calls this a dirty word”
Posted in history, theology

When Katie Von Bora wore black

By Elizabeth Prata

Katharina von Bora was a woman you should know, if you don’t already. She was born in 1499 in Lippendorf, Saxony, Germany. When she was five years old her father sent her to a monastery for education, and then to another one when she was 9. Ten years later, the growing Reformation movement has slipped into even the thick walls of the quiet Cistercian monastery and Katy, by now a nun, conspired to escape it with several other nuns. She had contacted Luther and Luther sent his friend Leonard Koppe, to retrieve the nuns. They escaped in a fish wagon. They arrived in Wittenberg, where you know who lived. Continue reading “When Katie Von Bora wore black”

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

How to be a good wife

Our church sponsored a Womans’ Event recently. We ladies had brunch together and then retired to a classroom to hear a talk by a charming and wonderful woman on being a Christian Wife.

Karen Schaeffer is wife of 52 years to Fritz Schaeffer. Now, Dr Schaeffer is a world-renowned Doctor of Chemical Physics. He is one of the most highly cited scientists in the world. He is also a Christian, as is his wife.

I mention Dr Schaeffer’s renown to provide a backdrop for his wife’s talk to us ladies at our church. Wives have a difficult go. Wives who are mothers have an ever harder time. Wives with children who are married to men in the spotlight have even more challenges. Reputable scientists’ wives who are also Christians face challenges most of us never even know.

Being happily and solidly married to a man for 52 years is an achievement. It is only by the Holy Spirit that two people who at birth and up to conversion are selfish and evil. After conversion men and women are still cursed with tendency to either be passive or to usurp. It is by the Spirit that He grows submission, respect, and love between two people. Through Him, man and woman are united and one flesh, living a Spirit-empowered life.

It is with that wisdom we went to hear what we could learn from this remarkable woman.

I noticed immediately her demeanor. A woman is supposed to be a lot of things, according to the Bible. Both men and women are supposed to be meek and gentle and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Add to that special instructions for young women and/or older women as Titus 2 says, and then add to that special instructions for wives as Ephesians, Proverbs, and 1 Peter explain, and we have a lot to consider as we strive to honor our glorious Savior.

Mrs Schaeffer exhibited these qualities and in humility shared from the wisdom gained from her experience as a long-standing wife. Her humble and gentle demeanor was striking and at once noticeable to the ladies in the audience including me.

She began by sharing that in turn, she was mentored and influenced in her younger days by a Godly women, with whom she is still friends. She noted the importance of surrounding one’s self with mature -in-the-faith women from whom one can seek advice, or ask questions. Like this one Mrs Schaeffer had asked her mentor/friend long ago:

Mrs S.: Can you wear jeans to church?
Mentor: Sure. … If that’s the best you’ve got.

Note: Not the Schaeffers

As a wife, she said to be sure not to impose your personality upon your husband. She said for example, that she is an introvert and he is an extrovert, and it would be easy to become dissatisfied with his rambunctiousness, eagerness to be among people, and excitement at trying new things. Be wary, wives, of pressuring him to conform to your personality, Instead, support him in his. “Let your husband be himself”.

This might seem like obvious advice, but how many of us fall in love with a man because of certain qualities he exhibits that we find charming or fascinating, then as the decades go on, those very same qualities begin to grate on us?

t’s easy to compare your husband to others. When we do, we become dissatisfied. “Her husband does the dishes,” one grouses learn to be content. “Her hubby notices things that need fixing without having to nag,” another wife might complain. Do not compare. Consider no others and make no comparisons. You chose him. He chose you. And, you’re no prize, either. 🙂 If your husband isn’t all you want him to be, God might be growing your faith.

If I can interject my thoughts at this juncture, I’d like to say that though Mrs. Schaeffer’s advice to wives to be content and patient may be obvious, it is a revolutionary thought. Many women these days expect immediate results because all they ever wanted was immediately gratified. Many others want what they want Without working for it. Learning contentment is a foreign notion. It wasn’t foreign to Paul, though. Philippians 4:11 says, “I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances.”

Mrs. Schaefer used a vivid symbol here. She said to “fence your marriage.” She was speaking here of becoming too close to other men. “Don’t go to lunch one-on-one with men, do not confide in them. Don’t draw too close in friendship with men.

Criticism. That’s a huge subject. Mrs. Schaeffer said that it seems that men are highly affected by a wife’s criticism. “A little goes a long way,” she said. When something happens, she advised praying for three days. “If you still remember it, if it still seems like something that needs addressing, then bring it up.” But first, cook him his favorite meal, or bring it up when he is feeling good. “Be careful with criticism.”

Note, not the doorknob in question

She related a story about when they lived in Germany for a while. He wanted to go for a long walk on a trail that goes beside the river. They would end up in Munich. “It looks like rain,” Mrs Schaeffer said. The reply was that everything owuld be fine.

Well come a deluge. There was nowhere to hide for miles, and they trudged on. No umbrella, no rain gear, they were simply soaked. They eventually got to their destination, and she said she never said a word and never ever said “I told you so.”

“Don’t yell or argue, ever.” James 3:5-6 was cited here, So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 

Humility is in order, forgive as Christ has forgiven you. If you have done wrong, apologize fully, not saying “I’m sorry, but…”

The husband is out in the world, working and providing and persevering, sometimes in a job he loves and sometimes not. Make him happy to come home, Mrs Schaeffer said. “If he is getting criticism at work, then make the home a happy, safe haven. If he’s getting praise in the world, and you criticize at home, then why would he come home? Therefore, no nagging.”

Mrs Schaeffer told a story of the loose doorknob. It was broken, kept falling out. She waited. She asked him to fix it. She asked again. It ground on her nerves. Then she got some perspective. Paraphrasing, she said counted her blessings. “If he can live with it, so can I.” Her advice: Fix it yourself,hire someone to fix it, or ignore it.

I thought important advice to hear was not to rely on him for all your emotional needs. “Have close (female) Christian friends or prayer partners. Develop your talents and hobbies, something he can respect.”

After the Lord, make him your number 1 priority. Get away together alone, occasionally. It’s never a good time to go away but make time.

By the Lord’s grace, perhaps you will be blessed with a 51-year or longer marriage. It isn’t easy, sometimes it is downright boring, but overall, it is worth it to meld together into one flesh on the journey into being transformed into Jesus’ image.