Jill and I both went to college when the most popular degree for women was Home Economics, followed closely by Education, viewed as preparation for teaching school, and Nursing, the ultimate “helping” profession. However, the goal of the vast majority of all the young women in college was to be wives and mothers whose profession was “homemaker.”
That was “long ago and far away!” For a young woman, in 2023, to openly declare “homemaker” as a life-goal would be a rare instance indeed, although I am convinced that many long for this very thing in their hearts.
Today, whatever vocations are available to men are also made available to women, even including those involving physical combat, such as the military and law enforcement. How can being a homemaker possibly compare to some of those exciting, challenging opportunities? This includes holding a “Stop-Slow” sign on a road construction crew, one of the go-to jobs for a female. Is it possible for a talented, intelligent young wife to really be stretched to the limits of her abilities if she stays home and manages her household?
By reading Proverbs 31:10-31 with this idea in mind, one can see that the Bible paints a rather interesting picture of what the term “homemaker” entails. Here, Solomon portrays a composite woman who embodies the spirit of a biblical homemaker. I want to go through that section of Proverbs and pick out some significant details that shed new light on the term, “homemaker.”
“What am I worth?” – Proverbs 31:10-12.
Here the groundwork is laid for the homemaker’s job description, as her relationship with her husband is emphasized. She is said to be a “virtuous wife,” whose “worth is far above rubies” (vs. 10).
The estimation of the worth of a diligent homemaker was far different when these words were penned than it is today. Now, homemakers are often asked, “Don’t you work?” and are jokingly accused of always being “barefoot and pregnant.” Upon meeting new acquaintances in today’s society, homemakers know they will face the inevitable question, “And what do you do?” They also know the uncomfortable feeling they experience as they search for an answer. They feel compelled to say something besides, “I’m a homemaker,” because in today’s society that’s not really acceptable. Our culture says to women who choose homemaking as a career, “You don’t do anything really worthwhile. You are just a homemaker.”
The Bible views homemaking, as presented in this posting, as an honorable role, both demanding and fulfilling. As a woman performs it diligently, it qualifies her for praise and honor from God, her husband, her children, and the whole community.
Her husband trusts her – Proverbs 31:11, 12
Her “husband safely trusts her” for two reasons. First, he has confidence in his wife to manage his household competently, as a good steward, and actually increase the value of their estate (“He will have no lack of gain”). Second, “she does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” He trusts that in his absence she will carry out all his policies just as if he were there.
This homemaker understands kingdom living to such a degree that she represents her husband and his will in everything she does. He knows this, and “safely” trusts her with all he has, because she has rejected the “right” to act autonomously and desires to please him in all her efforts.
Just like Nordstrom – Proverbs 31:13,18-25.
In these verses, the virtuous woman is portrayed as going through all the necessary steps to insure that her family is properly clothed, and in the process of simply caring for them, she discovers a ministry to the needy, and a profitable home business as well. In verse 13 she finds the raw materials (wool and flax) from which she makes cloth with her hands (scarlet and purple from the wool, and linen from the flax) in verse 19.
This activity is not necessary in today’s world, but what takes its place is the skill of careful shopping. Most women are on a strict clothing budget and must be very careful how they buy the clothes to stylishly and frugally dress their family. It’s so much fun to watch Jill bring home her latest “finds”—clothing bargains she found for both of us. She is a master at it!
In verse 20, the Proverbs 31 woman’s hands (mentioned five times in these 3 verses), that have worked so diligently to clothe her family, now reach out in compassion to clothe the poor with some of the fruit of the labors of those hands. The homemaker sees her home, and what she has created there, as not only for herself and her household, but for the needy as well.
Verses 21 and 22 describe for us the clothing the virtuous woman has made. Because of her diligence and perseverance in providing for her family, she has become very accomplished in fashion design (vs. 18). (In today’s world, that is knowing the styles and buying those clothes that are “stylish”). She is concerned that she, as well as other family members, are presented attractively, and her clothing is now of such quality and style that she can start a home business of designing and marketing what she has made, both wholesale and retail (vs. 24).
Interestingly, Jill has seriously considered renting space in a “Vendor’s Mall” and opening a used furniture and clothing business, even at her age! Her current part-time job as a furniture store decorator has also sprung from her skill in decorating our home and clothing our family as a full time “homemaker!”
The Proverbs 31 woman’s husband, who, in this case, is well known in the community as an elder, has high visibility as he sits in the gates, and has been a very effective model for her creations, so that the word of her skill has spread (vs. 23). She has made him “look good” to those he meets during the course of his day (Bingo! I once even had my female Heart Surgeon say to me, as she stepped into the office for our appointment, “You look very sharp, as usual”). Most octogenarians don’t have life-long homemakers for wives like I do!
Yes, this has all been accomplished while the virtuous, Proverbs 31 woman remained in the home, under the authority of her husband, simply doing what had been given her to do in an excellent fashion. An outreach ministry, and a profitable business, were both spin-offs of caring for the clothing needs of her family.
Verse 25 is a reminder to us, that, just as real beauty is not external, but is a gentle and quiet spirit, the virtuous woman’s real clothing is “strength and honor,” not what she has made with her hands, and will cause her to “rejoice in time to come.”
Next week we will conclude this study of Proverbs 31 with some mind-blowing verses!