As young women look to their future careers, what they will do with their lives, the culture unanimously paints for them a consistent picture of the profession of “homemaker,” or in the vernacular, a “stay-at-home mom.” It is of a haggard housewife changing diapers, scrubbing toilets, washing and ironing clothes, while being trapped in the kitchen cooking, all while riding herd on a handful of rebellious, snot-nosed kids hanging onto her apron. The crowning feature in this cultural narrative is that this is all faithfully performed by the homemaker while she is 8 months pregnant!
Is it any wonder homemakers are in shorter supply today than ever before? When I was a college student, one of the majors available at all universities was a dinosaur called Home Economics. It was designed for those young women who wanted nothing more than to be successful wives and mothers.
However, I am sure that particular dinosaur is extinct. Today’s view of a homemaker, as described above, has been fully adopted by the dominant culture, particularly the academic one in colleges and Universities. It is an unappealing characterization and a far cry from the biblical picture of what Paul had in mind when he told the older women in the church to teach younger women to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). What, then, is that biblical definition of the activities of a homemaker?
In Proverbs 31, the Bible paints a more interesting picture of those activities. In this chapter, a vision for the possibilities of the role of a biblical homemaker are explored through the life of a fictitious, composite woman, a “Proverbs 31 woman.” She embodies the spirit of a biblical homemaker, and is a model for homemakers today, not to emulate (no one is a “Proverbs 31 woman,” i.e., “Wonder Woman”), but to recognize the possibilities available.
In verses 10-12, 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. 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.”
On the other hand, the Bible views homemaking 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. Here are several opportunities outlined in Proverbs 31, some shocking, that characterize a biblical homemaker:
1.) Her “husband safely trusts her” (vs.11), 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” (vs. 12). He trusts that in his absence she will carry out all his policies just as if he were there. She understands kingdom living to such a degree that she represents her husband and his will in all that she does. He knows this and “safely” trusts her with all he has, because she has rejected the “right” to act autonomously and always desires to please him.
2.) Fashion designer and clothing consultant. 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.
In verse 20, her hands (mentioned five times in these three 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). 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).
Her husband, who is well known in the community as an elder, has high visibility as he “sits in the gates” (governs). He 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.
Notice that this has all been accomplished while the virtuous woman remained in the home, 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 simply 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 continue to look at the business opportunities for wives as they give themselves to their kingdom task of homemaking. However I feel it is necessary to remind us all again that this is only possible if the husband loves his wife, cherishes and values her, and makes her feel she is irreplaceable in his family. He has laid down his life for her. Men, if our wives are not Proverbs 31 woman, know for certain the fault lies at our doorstep. Only our love can call them up!