Q & A: Was the Proverbs 31 Woman a Career Woman?

proverbs 31 picAfter I wrote this post, many of you commented asking about the Proverbs 31 woman. So, is there an implied endorsement in Proverbs 31 for a young mother’s pursuit of a full-time career outside the home?

Here’s the passage:

    An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates

when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

First, it’s interesting that this example so often used comes from a passage in the Old Testament. I love the book of Proverbs, and certainly every Old Testament book contains principles that show us the heart of God. It does seem that, if the Proverbs 31 mother was a full-time career woman and if God was exalting that choice of a full-time career outside of the home, we would find some exaltation of that choice somewhere in the New Testament. It is important to note that the Proverbs were never intended to legislate, even in the Mosaic age in which they were written. On the other hand, our clear passage, Titus 2:3-5, in the New Testament is classified by the Holy Spirit Himself as sound doctrine and is to be heeded so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed. It is sandwiched between the phrases “sound doctrine,” “teach,” and “that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” It is clearly legislation and it is clearly for our dispensation, the Christian age. We must find application of all of the characteristics of Titus 2:3-5 in our lives today.

Second, this woman did buy a piece of land, she had some merchandise that was good, and she delivered girdles that she made to the merchants. She did something productive to add to the family income. With that we cannot argue. I know many women who are able to do just that even as they raise their children in the home. Everything from Etsy shops to making clothing and selling to balancing the books for their husbands’ businesses from their desks at home, to keeping children in the home, etc., all while remaining keepers of the home. To take the fact that the Proverbs 31 woman did some buying and selling and morph her into a career woman, even as the context of the Proverbs 31 woman description is overwhelmingly given to her home management, is taking liberties with that text. To call her a full-time career woman is saying something that the passage doesn’t say.

Third, the New Testament admonition is still there in Titus 2:3-5. That word “homemaker” still means “keeper of the home, mistress of the house, housekeeper, stay-at-home, a domestic” (Liddell-Scott-Jones). Thus, whatever I am, I must be that first. It is absolutely possible, even probable, that many women may be able to do something to boost the family income in or outside the home and still be primarily a keeper at home. But it is very difficult to see how a woman can work full-time, put her children in full-time daycare, be absent from them during the vast majority of their waking hours and still be primarily a keeper at home, a worker at home, a domestic, a stay-at-home, etc.. The Proverbs 31 woman was a domestic. That is clear from the context. She sewed, she gave honor to her husband, she gardened, and good home management is all over that text. But we simply do not have enough in that text to take her outside the home and make her a woman devoted to an outside career. It is just not there.

Again, let me emphasize that I know many Godly women who do something on the side to supplement the family income. I’m thinking of women like my friend Beth, who monograms clothes, towels, and handbags in her spare time, or my friend Alissa, who offers occasional tutoring for homeschooled students, or my friend Jennifer, who runs her own Etsy shop selling cool homemade crafts, or my friend Emily, who keeps a few other children in her home in addition to her own on some days. All of these women are keepers at home, homemakers, domestics, etc., but can still be financially productive on some scale, just as was the Proverbs 31 woman.

Thanks for the comments and the question. Have a great rest of the week!



15 thoughts on “Q & A: Was the Proverbs 31 Woman a Career Woman?

  1. Thank you so much for this article and clarifying what Proverbs 31 means along side Titus. So many have in my words muddled the passage to make it fit their lifestyle. You made it so simple in your explanation.

  2. I was a teacher for 30+ years. The first 5 years I taught at a Christian school. I took my oldest with me and I taught with him strapped to my front. When I moved to a mission state with my husband (who was preaching at the time) I went to work at a public school but I had a sweet widow to take care of our second child. My husband would come home to feed him every day. Even though I was a full time teacher, I was first a Christian, 2nd I was a Christian wife and mother…a keeper of the home. From time to time I would have help with the cleaning….I was still a keeper of the home. I provided our family’s health insurance by teaching so again I was a keeper of the home. When I came home each day my school work was finished and my attention was devoted to my family. In both areas at work and home I served God. I don’t say this to boast but to give another perspective to working. I prayerfully and earnestly sought to be a good wife and mother. I earnestly sought to teach my children to love and serve God. Submitting to each other as outlined by Ephesians 5, allows each couple to determine how their family will operate. I’m glad that moms have an opportunity to stay home when it is right for them. I am grateful to God, I had an opportunity to teach many children how to love and to learn. No regrets here!

  3. Hannah,
    After reading a few of your recent post, I have one simple question. Are you teaching that it is sinful for a mother to have a regular* job outside of her house?

    *regular = 5 days a week, 9-5, 8-3, etc…, Examples: nurse, teacher, architect, lawyer, etc…

  4. This is an area where many women struggle. I think Pat Owens (above) provides the example that is lacking from many who ask the question: Balance. Some women may have to work outside of the home (single parents for example), but it matters how they spend their time at home, keeping their home. My struggle has been even bigger in recent months, since my husband’s separation from the military and our current state of limbo. I wrestle with whether I should get a job, using my social work license (I had one opportunity that I passed on, as I reviewed the job description, seeing that this part time contract position could take me away from my job at home more than I consider to be part time). I question our decision to homeschool, especially through this time of transition. I grow weary, along side my husband, with each application rejection, though I offer support and encouragement, I too feel defeated. As always, Hannah, I am encouraged in your writing. Keep teaching the truth in Love.

    • Lady,, if your ok with starving, no roof over your head,,, t maybe ask the Author,, she might take you in, in fact I know she will, that’s the CHristian way isn’t it?

  5. So God is OK with women working but only if they monogram towels or do cool crafts? You seriously need to get out and talk to at least 25 people who are not in your upper middle class Christian SAHM subculture and who are over the age of 30. This is not wisdom, it has nothing to do with Jesus. It is the thinking of a self focused, inexperienced and materialistic young woman who is trying to affirm her own life choices and give herself a big gold star. But go monogram that handbag for Jesus. Really worthy way to spend your spare time.

    • Amen! God is so much bigger and has given His children unique talents and abilities and created us all with unique temperaments, personalities and strengths. It absolutely saddens me when people such as Hannah try to fit us all into a certain mold and if we don’t fit, say it’s because someone isn’t being “biblical.” That’s wrong. It diminishes God and it pushes way more people away from Him than draws them near Him.

      Hannah–you’re young. Open up your mind and your heart and learn that God is bigger than the box you’re trying to put Him in. You’re not being godly when you twist Scripture in the way you do to justify your views, and yes, twist it you have.

  6. Gently, Hannah, I’d like to encourage you to look again at a passage you cite in justification of your views, Titus 2:3-5:

    “…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things, that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

    Who is given the freedom to admonish others in this passage? The older women. Yet you–at 25 and only a few months a mother–are attempting to admonish others, including women much older than yourself, as to their proper Biblical roles. So are you yourself sinning as much as are those who you believe are “blaspheming the word of God” by not being homemakers? I can’t see your recent posts as being in obedience to Titus 2.

    The reaction–the tidal wave of comments–to your attempt to admonish women was predictable, since admonishing other women is not a role that the Bible gives to you. You are always free to tell your own story, but you have not yet gained the position in life that the Bible says makes you equipped to wisely counsel others. I would suggest that in future posts you consider testifying about what the Lord is doing in your *own* life, without seeking to admonish other women as to what they should be doing in theirs.

  7. WOW!…I pray that as you mature as a Christian you will learn to be less judgmental in your intentions… especially when speaking on a subject you have no experience with…

  8. First and foremost, Hannah, thank you for taking the time to write these articles. As always, they are very helpful and encouraging! Keep up he good work!

    Secondly, I was reading the comments above and felt that you were being harshly accused of “not being in obedience to God’s Word, not being in a position to admonish others due to her age, being judgemental, etc.” I couldn’t disagree more.

    What really baffled me is how Hannah was accused of not being able to admonish others due to her age. The definition of ADMONISH IS:
    -To counsel (another) against something to be avoided or warn (that something is dangerous).
    -To urge or exhort (someone to do something).
    -To remind (someone) of something forgotten or disregarded, as an obligation or a responsibility.
    Is she not an “older woman” to females who are teenagers or women in their early 20’s? Are you saying that she is only able admonish and counsel younger women when she is classified as an elderly woman? In her season of young adulthood and motherhood, she is most definitely able to counsel women younger than her to help them! I feel as if her blogs are aimed at women in her age group anyways. She is not being disobedient to God’s Word, as shown in Titus 2, by teaching women younger than her-am I correct?

  9. Hannah,

    You have written a good article. I must say, this topic is still relatively new to me. I never heard the topic discussed/mentioned in depth at all until right around the time I graduated high school. Thank you for presenting this from the Bible. One thing I have noticed is that those who disagree and say you twist scripture, etc etc. – they do not point out *how* you twist scripture, and they don’t give further Bible support to explain how you have misunderstood this teaching. I do not say that trying to pick a fight, but it is an honest observation that I as an outsider have noticed. There are lots of us who have honest hearts and have been doing research and study on the matter. Thank you for your blog. I enjoy reading it.

  10. Selling stuff on Etsy? Monogramming towels? Is that seriously all you think women should be allowed to contribute to family finances? How sad. I know women from all walks of life, some married with kids and some without and they all do way more interesting and challenging stuff than that to make money, even the ones who are stay-at-home moms. But I suppose I should go tell them that if they want to get into heaven they better stop pursing their interests and start making crafts to sell online because that is all that God wants them to do. Or at least that’s what some 25 year old know-it-all on the internet who claims to speak on behalf of God wants them to do. Pathetic.

  11. I am so saddened at the rude comments people are posting here. You are criticizing this young lady who is doing her best, yet you fail to see how mean and cruel you are speaking to her, your just beating her up with your words. How Christian is that? Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Maybe you need to go read the Bible and study a little more. Attacking someone like this is very wrong in God’s eyes. Her blog was enjoyable and I, being 51 years old, even gleened a bit from it. It may not apply to everyone, depending on your situation, and you have to be mature enough to know that not everything you read is going to apply to your situation. If you don’t gleen anything from it, move on, keep searching until you do. God bless.

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