Saturday, May 17, 2014

Caring for Your Own

" Time for Tea" by Jane Maria Bowkett, English, 1839-1891

These paintings from the 1800s depict what appears to be common scenes of young women with their families.
"A Seaside Scene" by Jane Maria Bowkett

Each paintings show women are solemnly focused on doing things for their families. I like to look at background details of the paintings to see what else the woman might have been doing at home. Sometimes there is a sewing basket or books or meal time preparations illustrated.
"Baby's Birthday" by Jane Maria Bowkett

Today there is a lot of pressure on women who stay home, to do community work or charity. When homemakers volunteer, they find themselves rushed for time, unable to keep their homes in order.

According to the New Testament, ladies who are members of the Lord's church are to be absorbed in the running of the home and the care of the family members.


Sometimes there is pressure on women to conform to the super-women image of the all-efficient housekeeper who also has her children in many sports and activities outside the home. The homemaker is somehow supposed to be involved in social work, be out in her car going from appointment to appointment all day long. Other people think she should be out working to bring in wages.

There are myths surrounding the Proverbs 31 woman. Even religious people preach that the woman described in those 10 verses was involved in selling real estate. They also say the description of her making garments to sell "proves" that she was a career woman and not a full time homemaker. My friend from "Adventures in Keeping House" has logically refuted the modernist version of Proverbs 31:10-31, so I hope you will find time go go and read what she has written.


Of the 21 verses describing the ideal woman (which, from what I can surmise, were the teachings of a king's mother), there are only four verses that deal with finances. Verse 10 says that her "price" is far above rubies. Apparently, at the time this passage was written, there was nothing more valuable than rubies. A worthy woman was more valuable than rubies.

This verse does not indicate that her value was based on her efforts to earn a living. The "value" is in the other qualities she had, listed in the other 18 verses:

-Doing good and not evil
-Working with willing hands, using fabrics and yarns
-Shopping for quality food for her family
-Giving food to her servants
-Giving tasks to her servants
-Planting a garden
-Making fine clothing for herself and also for her family
-Keeping her mind on her home, watching the ways of her household
-Teaching good, wholesome things
-Helps the needy
-Manages the home and careful with finances so the husband doesn't have to worry
-Being busy, and having reverence for God
-not wasting time in games and idle talking or socializing


As you can see by reading the other verses, there is a lot more to the Proverbs 31 woman than money, yet people today seem to only see the financial part. In the beginning of the description of the worthy woman, it says she is far above the value of rubies. So, we can assume that preparing food, making clothes, watching over a home, and caring for a family are to be even more highly valued than money.


This all being said, if you are a Christian, the New Covenant of Christ is the law now spiritually in effect. This New Testament law states in Titus, chapter 2, that Christian woman should be absorbed in caring for husband, children and house.


The Proverbs 31 description was only an example, and only a description. It was never a command or a law. It is an ideal to use as an example. It was a mother saying to her son, "it is hard to find a good wife, one who would do this-and-such." We can all benefit from the depiction of an industrious woman who takes care of things at home so that her husband can go to work and not have to worry about things at home, knowing his wife is capable.


Verse 16 says she buys a plot of land to plant a vineyard, and verse 24 says she makes garments for the merchant to sell. None of these verses prove she was a full-time career woman working all day for money.


Some people say the fact she bought a piece of land in verse 16 means she was a real estate agent, but it seems one purchase of one piece of land was all she needed for planting. Real estate agents today sell property for a commission. The verse does not mention her selling land. It says she bought a piece of land. We are not told how big it was, and it is possible it was as big as some people's gardens today. Realtors today are busy from early morning til late at night trying to sell property, and there is no indication the Proverbs 31 woman was selling land.


The fact that she made garments, as cited in verse 24 still does not prove that she was in sales all day long. Like many homemakers, she may have sold something extra she had, after making all she needed for her own family. Summer gardens and fruit trees yield far more than we need, and so it is common for homemakers to sell what is extra, or even give it away.


The lady of the house may care for the food in the garden for a season, but that does not mean she works in the food industry all day, every day. Verse 24 says she gave the garments to the merchant to sell. It does not indicate that she spent the day selling her garments. Today there are knitters and crafters who put their wares in a shop on commission. That way they can stay home and keep house, and let the merchant sell their products for them. She also could have sold things from her home, as many people do today.


As I mentioned at the beginning, there are 21 verses describing qualities of an ideal woman, and only four of them have anything to do with money. Modernists have carelessly overlooked the qualities described in the other 18 verses. In fact, whenever the Proverbs 31 woman is mentioned in conversation, or online, right away someone says she was "powerful" or "strong" or "a force to be reckoned with." They always say she was "out there working", and occasionally someone claims she was working alongside her husband.


What she was actually doing was the work of the home, which freed up her husband to go and do what he needed to be doing. She managed her household so well, that verse 11 states that her husband has confidence in her and he will "have no need of spoil". "Spoil" means plunder, which is goods taken by force, usually during war. The Proverbs 31 woman apparently managed the family income so well, that her husband did not need any "spoil."


There are those who teach the Proverbs 31 account in terms of monetary gain. They are quick to point out the woman's financial abilities (buying a plot of land, giving garments to the merchant to sell, and her husband needing no "spoil"), as "proof" that a woman should have a job that earns wages. In emphasizing only the financial aspects of this worthy-woman description, they have sorely neglected approximately 18 more qualities, many of them spiritual, which makes a woman "worthy" and of greater value than rubies.

In the era in which the Proverbs 31 passage was written, many women had hired servants to do the tasks that homemakers do by themselves today. Is enabled them to do many other things. Unless you have someone else to do the homemaking and housework all day, there is plenty to do at home to make you a full time homemaker. People are quick to point to the Proverbs 31 woman as a career woman who held a job other than homemaking (they usually make a realtor out of her) but she had servants who did a lot of the house work. She then had more time to make garments and do other things.


Any woman that wants to make her family successful will take good care of her house and all the things in it including clothes, furniture, dishes, appliances, books, etc., so that things will last a long time and there will not be wastefulness. She will show her children how to look after their clothes and shoes and personal possessions.

A worthy woman likes to help others, but she is careful not to neglect her own family to engage in a lot of outside social things. She has to "look well" (verse 27) to the ways of her household. That means that caring for husband, children and home is her first concern.

24 comments:

Sanne said...

Thanks for the link!

living from glory to glory said...

Good Morning, After my devotions and planting some seeds outside. I am having some coffee and reading your post you have written. Firstly, once again, you are able to explain and demonstrate how we have taken so much out of context and how we read more into the whole Proverbs 31 chapter. Yes, some women have and will be required for a season to do many things that are not the best!
But we must be careful to not give a free license to do anything we want, because of the misconstrued reading of proverbs 31!
I am sure this will get some hearts thinking! I love a good thought provoking challenge just before going to Worship!
I appreciate you...
Lovely, Roxy

Katrinka said...

There are also certain groups of women who don't work and who also don't care for their families, but spend much of their time watching TV or texting or playing games on their mobile phones. Their families are served junk food, cookies, chips, and pop and mother is too busy with her friends or leisure activities to be available when they need her. Sometimes they receive income for having children or caring for disabled children or family members.

Of course, not everyone is the same and there are many exceptions, but these women who could be available for their children don't consider homemaking and child raising a serious career. They feel the freedom to spend their time as they wish, with no accountability. Yet to criticize them for their behavior isn't allowed. It does seem people feel free to criticize a woman who takes her home living seriously and makes it her focus in life. I really don't understand this attitude.

Christy H said...

I loved reading this and feel so encouraged. My last children have about only five more years at home and then we will be empty nesters. So many women in my church work or went back to work after their kids grew up. I don't want to go back. I don't think I can handle the stress anymore. One of the harder aspects of that though is we are on the low end of economic demographic of our church.

We love our church but many times I think it has bought into the culture too much of women working and sending our girls to college. Now if my daughter wanted to go to college then fine but she doesn't, in fact she might even get married shortly after she graduates. (we like the young man and he could support her) Our church hasn't been very supportive. All my daughter has ever wanted to be was a wife and mom.
Your blog has been such a deep encouragement to me over the past few months. Thank you so much for our words!!
Christy

LadyLydia said...

Rox - it is irritating that we only hear the career woman aspect of the Proverbs 31 woman. I never hear anyone teach that a worthy woman cares for the home and sees that her husband has everything he needs so he can get to work on time. Where was the Proverbs 31 husband? He was away from home, and he was bragging about what a good wife he had and how good a homemaker she was. He did not have to stand over her every minute and tell her what to do. The proverbs 31 woman was not a real person but a "wish-for" wife for the young King.

LadyLydia said...

Katrina,

The woman who is convicted deep in her heart that the influences she welds on people around her can be good or bad, will be conscientious about the way she lives at home. Such a woman is focused on her duties at home. She does not have to have constant socializing because she loves her work at home.

LadyLydia said...

Christy H,

There is pressure on young people to go to college because it is largely a marketing system. Colleges need your money so they can keep their business going. When there is a loan for college, it means your daughter will have to go to work to pay it off and then she is stuck. If she went to college on a scholarship, she is still stuck working outside the home for a long long time, because her future husband will know her degree can bring in so many dollars and will want the income.

Julie said...

To me the Proverbs 31 woman encompasses one main thought: Soundness of mind, competent. Another reason for buying land would have been for family burials. Abraham is an example of that.

Wonderful post. We need more of these on the internet.

LadyLydia said...

Julie, that is a very good summary. In fact I think the Titus 2 command can be a type of summary of Proverbs 31.

LadyLydia said...

Also, check out Ruthie's recent post on Sugar Pie Farm House. One point she makes is about not getting involved in things outside the home, making it hard to have time to keep house or cook or relax at home.

Blessed Homemaking said...

Thanks so much for writing this post. It is sad how many Christian women have abandoned the home these days and succumb to the idea that they must bring in an income, even when their husbands are able-bodied men...But they don't want to hear that their husbands should be carrying that load. Today's women are expected, for the most part, to carry both the roles of a man and a woman.

LadyLydia said...

Rightthinker has left a new comment on your post "Caring for Your Own":

I love this post...

So many times, women look at me strangely when I decline doing the "play date" stuff. While I certainly venture out, our home is our sanctuary, and honestly, when I leave the home on a weekday, the routine is quite interrupted and then it's more stressful to complete the daily tasks.

Women cannot seem to understand that I desire to be here at home, and take a great amount of pleasure making a home for my husband and children.

During our homeschool year, I must remain committed to teaching the children because that is a commandment God has given to parents-not to turn them over to the state. If I pursue "entertainment" before my joyful duties, then the duties are not my priority.

With eight children, we often receive the comments of "how busy" we must be, because in modern Christian culture (which often parallels the world, unfortunately) people have their couple of children running them ragged, and therefore women believe they must be busy outside the home to be worth anything.

The days are busy and long at times, but most days they are also quite relaxed. I can't imagine buying the feminist myth of "having it all" and attempting to have a career while still putting family and home first.

SharonR said...

Honestly, I guess I've never heard or even thought about the phrase, "no need of spoil" before in the way you've described here. In my head, it meant that nothing would go bad (spoil). But that never really seemed right. I just never thought about "spoil" from a war. It makes perfect sense.
In all the classes, readings, etc. I've learned from on this passage, I don't think I've ever come across anyone said that she was a realtor from buying one piece of land. Anyone who thinks that makes a realtor is really stretching it. I'm glad you addressed that, too.
Thank you again, Lady Lydia for your excellent words here.

The Retro Homemaker said...

Great post as always!

anonymous said...

Bravo Lydia!
That is the best explanation of the Prov. 31 Woman I have ever heard and makes the most sense.

Thank you for sharing this on your blog.

Mrs. J.

Denise Nessly said...

Dear Ladies,
For the past 20 years I have purposed to be the wife and mother that GOD has created me to be. I have enjoyed the art of homemaking, being a keeper at home with "home" being the key word. I also felt it my role as a wife to support and encourage my dear husband so that he could go out into the world and be successful. He was the provider of the home--I kept to the running of the home. I loved being his wife, a mother to our two blessings and fulfilling the role that I feel GOD desires women to fulfill.
Embrace your calling as a wife and mother if GOD has blessed you in either roll. What I wouldn't give to have those sweet days back.
My dear husband went to the LORD this past December. Now, I am a widow, a single mother and long for the days when my sole responsibility was my home. I grieve so deeply for those sweet days. My duties and expectations are different now. Even though I have the help of my children, so much of what my husband did, I now must do. We had very defined, traditional roles and what I wouldn't give to have my role as his wife back.
I am only 5 months into this journey of grieving and much of what I grieve lately is the role I had of being a wife.
With all this said, there isn't enough space to write all the ways GOD is providing and loving us. All the support and encouragement we have from the body of CHRIST. GOD is so wonderful and so good to this widow and her two children. Yet, what I really want to encourage is for women to embrace your calling as wife, mother and homemaker. See it as a joy and blessing. Embrace it, and don't grumble. Love your husbands--irritations, faults and all. You truly do not know, if you will have tomorrow.
I have never desired to be anything more than a wife, mother, homemaker. I have no desire to work outside the home. Although I do not know what the future holds, I am confidently hoping GOD will honor my hearts desire to remain home.
May the LORD bless you as you seek HIM and fulfill the role HE desires for you.

Denise Nessly said...

Dear Ladies,
For the past 20 years I have purposed to be the wife and mother that GOD has created me to be. I have enjoyed the art of homemaking, being a keeper at home with "home" being the key word. I also felt it my role as a wife to support and encourage my dear husband so that he could go out into the world and be successful. He was the provider of the home--I kept to the running of the home. I loved being his wife, a mother to our two blessings and fulfilling the role that I feel GOD desires women to fulfill.
Embrace your calling as a wife and mother if GOD has blessed you in either roll. What I wouldn't give to have those sweet days back.
My dear husband went to the LORD this past December. Now, I am a widow, a single mother and long for the days when my sole responsibility was my home. I grieve so deeply for those sweet days. My duties and expectations are different now. Even though I have the help of my children, so much of what my husband did, I now must do. We had very defined, traditional roles and what I wouldn't give to have my role as his wife back.
I am only 5 months into this journey of grieving and much of what I grieve lately is the role I had of being a wife.
With all this said, there isn't enough space to write all the ways GOD is providing and loving us. All the support and encouragement we have from the body of CHRIST. GOD is so wonderful and so good to this widow and her two children. Yet, what I really want to encourage is for women to embrace your calling as wife, mother and homemaker. See it as a joy and blessing. Embrace it, and don't grumble. Love your husbands--irritations, faults and all. You truly do not know, if you will have tomorrow.
I have never desired to be anything more than a wife, mother, homemaker. I have no desire to work outside the home. Although I do not know what the future holds, I am confidently hoping GOD will honor my hearts desire to remain home.
May the LORD bless you as you seek HIM and fulfill the role HE desires for you.

Sarah Coller said...

Thank you---this article really blessed me. I'm so thankful to be a homemaker and I know I take it for granted far too often. Thanks for the little wake up call!

Blessings,
Sarah

LadyLydia said...

"Spoil" being a common word in those times, its possible it became an expression used to indicate a man that did not have enough.

Cynthia Berenger said...

Hello, Lydia and Friends~

From time-to-time a Christian student will cite Proverbs 31 as "proof" that women are to have careers outside the home. I remind them that while we are not to ignore any of the Scriptures, I perceive that we as Christians are to concentrate our teaching on the Words of Christ and His apostles.

A relative few women are forced to work away from home for pay with homelessness and hunger being the consequence otherwise. In those cases, I pray that somehow, someway, the lady is able to return home to see after her own household.

Agape always,
Cynthia

Cheryl J said...

What a great post and wonderfully appreciated. I think you have written perfectly the way Proverbs 31 should be interpreted. Being a fulltime homemaker and soon to be empty nester, I have been struggling lately. My husband is all for me staying home as it makes his life so much calmer. I enjoy the encouragement I have received from your blog. Thank you.
Cheryl

Cheryl J said...

What a great post and wonderfully appreciated. I think you have written perfectly the way Proverbs 31 should be interpreted. Being a fulltime homemaker and soon to be empty nester, I have been struggling lately. My husband is all for me staying home as it makes his life so much calmer. I enjoy the encouragement I have received from your blog. Thank you.
Cheryl

Fiona said...

I think the fact that she bought the land was showing that she worked hard to afford purchasing the land rather than renting. Owning is a better option financially over the long-term and she is showing fiscal savvy by doing this.

I have been wasting too much time browsing online shopping websites and other non-productive (and non-inspirational like I consider your blog) and I feel both lazy and guilty about that. I have stopped that now and feel so much better.

Kimberly said...

Thank you as a young mom and wife I look to you for guidance. Thank you

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