“OK, Robert. You have discussed cooking, clothing and cleaning (you didn’t discuss that specifically even though you implied it) in previous postings, and although her tasks may be more challenging than I thought, let’s face it—it’s still cooking, clothing and cleaning—what all house wives have to do. That’s not the challenging life I want.”
At this point, I love that response! The virtuous wife’s involvement in these next ventures must be a shock to the reader who thinks a homemaker’s only activities are “housework.”
“She evaluates a field and purchases it; from the proceeds she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16). “She designs and sells linen garments, supplying accessories to clothiers” (Proverbs 31:24). “She reaches out to the poor, opening her hands to those in need” (Proverbs 31:20).
Let’s look at these three verses one by one. First, in verse 16 the wife actually purchased a piece of property. She was not simply carrying out her husband’s orders, but made the decision herself, after evaluating the property carefully and being convinced it was a good buy.
Any talent, ability or gift a homemaker has can be used by an astute husband to further his goals for his family. I can imagine a scenario where a man marries a woman who has grown up with a father who was particularly adept at buying and selling real estate, either his own, or as an agent. She took an interest in his activities as a girl, and found she had a knack for evaluating property and anticipating the optimum time to buy or sell. Because of her interest, she even took some real estate courses in college, and by the time she married her husband, her father had helped her build a portfolio of several rental houses which she was in the process of managing herself.
Her husband, on the other hand, had no real estate experience, and even though he was interested in acquiring some property, didn’t have the time, nor the ability (he eventually would learn from his wife) to be a successful real estate investor.. He would be a fool not to release his wife to exercise her ability to the fullest.
Another ability besides real estate the wife evidently had was as a small business woman (verse 24). In the process of expertly dressing her family, they wore clothing she had designed and made herself. Her creations, modeled by her, her husband and their children, were evidently so popular that certain extra items she had made she was able to sell. The profits she accrued in this way may have been the source of the money she used to buy a vineyard, yet another business opportunity.
Finally, in the midst of all this profitable commercial activity by this Proverbs 31 wife, she found the time to involve herself in charitable activity, reaching out to the poor personally and giving to them from her own resources (verse 20).
There are several very crucial things to notice here.
First, she is not working outside the home as a real estate saleswoman, managing a vineyard, or selling her clothing designs. She is doing all these things from her own home. She is on her own time, setting her own schedule, still able to care for sick children and other family emergencies. She does not have a career apart from her husband.
Second, she continues under her husband’s authority. He has delegated these jobs to her, and she does them at his discretion, though he wisely has given her complete authority over them and the freedom to explore new opportunities. All the while she recognizes that her first priority is being her husband’s helpmate in providing a smoothly functioning, loving kingdom home for her whole family.
Third, the husband must still be responsible for the overall condition of the family and making sure that all family members are functioning in their assigned responsibilities successfully. Are all needs being met? Is my wife budgeting her time successfully, being sure that all her bases are covered with the children? Those are among his responsibilities as head of his family.
What if a husband is not naturally gifted with managing money but has a wife who is. Should he give all money managing decisions to his wife? Can he do that and remain the head of his home?
As the head of the family, he is accountable to God for the well-being of his family, including financially. He always retains ultimate responsibility for overall financial decisions, though he has given his wife money to manage herself to carry out her own tasks. That is a part of leadership. Before the Lord, the buck stops with him. The responsibility for all financial decisions remains his.
The husband must help his wife be sure that she is able to keep her many obligations in balance, not ignoring some tasks while overemphasizing others.
For example, Christians have absorbed by osmosis the lie that the state will take care of educating our children for us, and we have traditionally, docilely, given this vital part of their training to the public school to do so. The Bible gives that responsibility exclusively to fathers (Ephesians 6:4).
Many Christians are awakening to that fact and beginning to educate their own children at home, with the homemaker taking the on-site responsibility under her husband’s oversight. As we have seen, the ideal homemaker is an excellent manager and can do all this, but, realistically that is a goal toward which the Lord is still moving us all.
The examples used in Proverbs 31 are real estate and starting and maintaining businesses, but the principles are the same, no matter what the endeavor. The homemaker can pursue whatever her mind can conceive, if it meets the three criteria mentioned above. God is eager to see her employ all the abilities He has given her, because He gave them to her to be used to extend His rule over the earth.
One can see that the bottom-line problem feminists have with homemaking is not really that it limits women in any way. No, the problem is rebellion against the authority structure of the kingdom of God. They do not want to acknowledge that a wife remains under the rule of her husband, and her job is to please him in all she does..
So, the issue for the homemaker is not what can she do to have a meaningful life, but rather is she willing to do the whole range of activities God has given her to do in the manner He wants her to do them—in submission to her husband? Next week we will see how that can practically be a reality today in America.