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. 


Christine said...

Thank you Lydia, for your excellent clarification of the Proverbs 31 woman, which has made me examine her in a whole new light.

In many ways, I have felt I could never "measure up" to her because I did not have a natural drive to go out in the workforce. My desire was alway to remain at home. And then for those periods when I was out in the workforce, I felt a failure because I could never look after my home the way I wished. I could not understand how the lady seemed to do both so well!

I really love the way you have posed different questions on what and who the Proverbs 31 woman was, and am grateful for the time that both you and Sanne' have spent on her.


Lydia said...

Thank you, Christine!

A. Law said...

Dear Lydia,
Thank you for writing on this important subject.
Your blog is one of my favorites.
Have a good day,
Aline Law

ladypinktulip said...

Enjoying our conversations regarding Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. Knowing the Scriptures and the context in which they were written is so vital to our understanding. Thank you! Kelly T.

Josephine's Girl said...

Do you believe it's wrong for a mother to go into the workforce if she is called. I have a career which I practice part-time. My career focuses on the restoration and the giving back of independence to the ill, weak and infirm. My family is not neglected and I truly feel the Lord has called me to this line of work. Is that wrong? I love your blog and feel you're spot on most of the time, but I feel a tinge of guilt s I read it because I have, with my spouse blessing, dedicated some of my time to my profession.

Mary said...

Having staff of servants helps a lot with doing it all! Nowadays, very few have hired help of any sort, let alone live-in help. It's all down to the homemaker to do the shopping, the laundry, teach and keep an eye on the children, bathe and dress them, care for them when they are sick, cook and clean up from meals, gardening, mending, decorating, cleaning, practicing hospitality, running errands and taking everyone to appointments and activities and church. I'm probably forgetting something. And yet career women are responsible for all that (except childcare while at work) plus a job. So often without even family support. It's so much, that it's impossible to do it all excellently all the time. And then the world tells us that it isn't even important. No wonder we are all so overwhelmed and afflicted by anxiety and depression.

I do enjoy sewing, when I can manage to make the time! I made my first dress for my daughter this Easter. Purple, as it happens! :D

Mary said...

I wanted to add that our modern idea of a "workforce" did not exist in ancient times. That is entirely a product of the Industrial Revolution. For most of human history, the economy was based around the home. Husband and wife worked together to serve the family. Farming was the most common means of earning a living. There were tradesmen who also worked out of their homes. So while the wife might not be a carpenter or blacksmith, she would not be completely removed from the business the way modern housewives are completely apart from their husbands during the day. There is really no basis for making the Proverbs 31 like us. She's from a completely different world than ours.

Christine said...

Dear "SunShine",

Thank you so much for your very kind words and encouragement. They are truly appreciated....


Andrea R said...

I'm not sure, but this very well may be my favorite article you have written, of all time.

The way we hen-peck Scripture, to suit our modern agenda is the very root of the erosion and apostasy in church. We either believe it all (in context!), live it all out the best we can by the power of the Holy Spirit, or we need to sit and be quiet about our own agenda!

I love what you said about caring for the pastor! Indeed! In general, the defensiveness displayed, via outright anger, at ever suggesting that women should be at home, caring for home, husband and children, is enough to prove that the heart behind the actions are not fueled by a desire to be more like the Proverbs 31 woman!

God bless you, sweet friend. I miss talking with you..let's catch up with an email!


Mary said...

While I'm on a roll... Are we trying to make Scripture like ourselves instead of ourselves like Scripture?

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

Personally I'd rather be compared to the Bride from Solomon 7 than Proverbs.

"Expressions of Praise
7 How graceful are your feet in sandals,
O queenly maiden!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
the work of a master hand.
2 Your navel is a rounded bowl
that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat,
encircled with lilies.
3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,
by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
overlooking Damascus.
5 Your head crowns you like Carmel,
and your flowing locks are like purple;
a king is held captive in the tresses.[a]
6 How fair and pleasant you are,
O loved one, delectable maiden![b]
7 You are stately[c] as a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
8 I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its branches.
O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
and the scent of your breath like apples,
9 and your kisses[d] like the best wine
that goes down[e] smoothly,
gliding over lips and teeth.[f]
10 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me.
11 Come, my beloved,
let us go forth into the fields,
and lodge in the villages;
12 let us go out early to the vineyards,
and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
and over our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
which I have laid up for you, O my beloved."

She is loved, adored and worshipped.

Vickie said...

Where I live, people think that housewives must be on welfare if they don't work! And that is even if their husbands work. It is not family oriented anymore which is sad. A woman's worth and success is more than dollar signs.

Kimberline said...


How I love this article! I also greatly enjoyed all the comments and encouragement from each of these ladies :) I always have talked to myself about going out to bring in food from far away places as an encouragement and a pulling myself up to get the work done. Shopping is always an hour drive one direction and usually does require that I stop at many stores to get the things that I really want for my family. Thank you, thank you for your lovely suggestion that we be conformed by the scriptures and not be persuaded to conform the scriptures to our own desires.


Kimber Dixon

Kimberline said...

How I love this article! I also greatly enjoyed all the comments and encouragement from each of these ladies :) I always have talked to myself about going out to bring in food from far away places as an encouragement and a pulling myself up to get the work done. Shopping is always an hour drive one direction and usually does require that I stop at many stores to get the things that I really want for my family. Thank you, thank you for your lovely suggestion that we be conformed by the scriptures and not be persuaded to conform the scriptures to our own desires.


Kimber Dixon

Far Above Rubies said...

Oh, but we DO have hired help! My servants are named Running Water, Refrigerator, Dishwasher, Washing Machine, Dryer, and Alabama Power. And let me not forget to mention my servant Amazon Prime, who often works alongside FedEx or USPS to get the work done sending my food from afar. And I did forget to mention Crockpot and Instapot, who slowly and quickly pull meals together for us. We have more hired help than we think. They just aren't humans anymore.

Lydia said...

Far above Rubies: in the previous article called The Proverbs 31 Woman and Servants I pointed out thst modern appiances are good aids to the homemakers, but do not provide full and complete services the way a hired helper would. Yes the crockpot cooks the food but a hired service would prepare the food to put in the slow-cooker and thenwash and put away the appliance. A washing machine washes and spins the clothes but a complete service would be if you paid someone to hang out the wash, bring it in, fold and put it away. A sweeper, loke a broom, still has to be pushed and pulled by yhe homemaker. I was simply pointing out that real service is when thi gs are completely done for you, such as beds being made, table set for a meal, groceries brought to your door and put away. The readon I made the comparison between an aid and a full service as to show that appliances can be nice but cause more work and we use them more often and are busier.

Unknown said...

Yes! So well said Lady Lydia and so very true!

Homemaker's Heart said...

Hello Lydia~ I am so grateful for this article. I have been reading in scripture lately that "a woman's beauty makes her husband's face light up", and right after that "if her speech is kindly, his lot will is beyond mortal men." How easy it is to only focus on the one, beauty. That's an easy fix if I dress pretty, do my hair and brush my teeth! But the kindly speech, that requires work on my part.

My point is it's easy to focus on that which we don't have. A career? A "paid" income of some sort? But why? Society says we have to, we aren't much without it. "Oh your just a housewife". The things we are told as women distorts what God has for us. It IS a challenge, His ways are never the easy way, but always the more fulfilling. A career is only going to have us chasing down "more". More pay, more clothes, more house. Why? He gives us all we need.

I find I have to inventory my motives and search my heart when I want more that what I am given. Thanks for the beautiful writings on the Proverbs 31 woman. (And the lovely video on companions. The internet can be just as distracting as companions.)
~God's peace,