Thursday, May 05, 2016

Proverbs 31: Career Woman? (And Lydia, Seller of Purple)

(I thought you would enjoy the picture of this flowering tree that I took from a window)

Hello Ladies,

There has been a trend in the last two decades to turn the Proverbs 31 woman into a real estate seller, a shop keeper, a business woman, a career woman: and always with the emphasis on money.

What other things besides buying and selling and making a profit, did the King's mother teach him about a worthy wife? 

The first thing that comes to mind is the part that says the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. After that, there is the part that says she makes garments out of cloth. Then, she works with willing hands. Also, she stretches her hand to the needy.  There are many more qualities in Proverbs 31 besides these.

In the last 20 years that I have been writing about the women being home, I have received many letters telling me the Proverbs 31 woman must have been a career woman because she earned money selling things.  There is nothing wrong with making something at home and selling it, but there is no example here to leave your husband, children and house in the care of others, and pursue a career. See the article in "Adventures in Keeping House" which explains this in more detail.

In all these years I have never received a letter asking how a woman can learn to have "the teaching of kindness on her tongue", which is also on the list of requirements for a wife, that King Lemuel's mother taught him.  What is the teaching of kindness? Where is the desire to develop the teaching of kindness? Instead, most of the letters are about the Proverbs 31 woman and her marketing ability and her money-making skills. 

Next, she makes clothing, and her family is clothed in the most high quality fabrics--clothing she made for them. Obviously she did not sell those garments.

Where are the letters asking how to make your family's clothing out of scarlet, a rich, high-end fabric?  What about the tapestries made by the Proverbs 31 woman--where are the women desiring to know how to do that for their homes? Instead, most of the things listed in Proverbs 31 are ignored, while eyes are drawn like magnets to the words: buy, sell, makes a profit.  It just shows where people's minds are these days.  But, give it another twenty years and a new trend will emerge telling us the Proverbs 31 woman worked in a cotton or woolen factory, making cloth all day. (Because she used spindle at home).

Also, as she "looks well to the ways of her household," why are there so few women wanting to know how to do that? Instead, when it comes to the Proberbs 31 woman, all they see is the way she markets a product.

Ladies, let us teach the younger woman to see the many other things in the Proverbs 31 list, besides buying and selling.  There is something very lopsided about the modern view of the Proverbs 31.  I hear a lot about how she was a career woman, but never does anyone demand that women at home be responsible for sewing clothing for her family (and servants) as listed in the Proberbs 31.  Neither do I hear these women ask how to "seek food from afar" --one of the things on the list. 

"Look at Lydia, in the New Testament," they say. "She was a seller of purple cloth!"  How excited it makes them, when they read the word "seller." (Not excited about the wonderful, high-quality cloth, usually fit for a queen, but the selling!). They are not as impressed with her faith, her obedience and subsequent salvation, as they are about her selling!

 Of course there is nothing wrong with selling something if you are a homemaker, but there is an obvious overlooking of the many other things about Lydia.  The more important spiritual points of the account of Lydia in the book of Acts were:

-She was a worshipper of God who gathered at the river with other believers.
-When she heard the message of the Apostle Paul, the Lord opened her heart.
-She compelled Paul to come to her house, where he taught everyone that lived there.
-as a result of the gospel message, she and all her household who believed were baptised that very day.

Her selling of purple was not addressed at all except to identify her. After that, the story reveals her reliable worship attendance, her teachable heart, her hospitality, her influence over her household, and her obedience to the gospel message.  Yet, I never hear about these qualities when the feminists write to me. They always say, "After all, even Lydia in the New Testament was a seller of purple!"  

I wonder if they want to be just like Lydia or like the Proverbs 31 woman, why they do not desire to sew or work with fabric, but rarely, if ever, use these verses to propel them to make clothes.  And if they so admire Lydia in Acts, why they do not have a strong desire to show hospitality to a preacher and listen to his message, or, why they do not teach everyone in their homes about the great commission. 

If we go into scripture wanting to find something to justify what we are wanting to do, rather than trying to find where we are wanting (lacking) we will miss the whole story with the real wealth scripture offers.

Finally, as I said in the previous Proverbs  31 posts, Titus 2 is the pattern for Christians today, and it is much simpler than Proverbs 31. It does not mention money, buying, selling, profit, or any enterprise. Titus 2 focuses on LOVE: the Christian woman's love of her husband, her children, and her home.

The Bible contains the pattern for us to follow. Some people want to change the pattern to fit themselves, rather than change themselves to fit the pattern. 

Added December 2017:

Lydia, the seller of purple, Deborah the judge, Esther the Queen: obviously women throughout history have held prominent places in life (long before the demands of "women's liberation movement" which shows that they were not "held back."  This is another subject entirely. I don't believe any of these women are intended to be examples of women getting away from being wives, mothers and keepers of the home. I don't think we should look at Deborah and consider her an example for women to be judges, although they will have to employ that skill in due time when they are in charge of their own homes and families.

There is probably a lot we do not know about Lydia, who sold cloth, such as if she was married, had children, took her children with her to sell cloth, or of people came to her house to buy cloth.  Instead of being identified by a surname, like most of us, she was identified by the fact she sold cloth. The cloth selling was not the point of the written report about Lydia. Her interest in the gospel was the point.