“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle” (Proverbs 31:19 NASB). While still showing the virtuous wife to be a diligent worker, the emphasis has shifted from business to providing clothing for others. She provides for the poor (31:20), her family (31:21), and for herself (31:22). This was not easy nor was it always fun work to do. Using the spindle was repetitive and time consuming. Nevertheless, she is willing to do such work for others, even those towards which she has no obligations. She doesn’t do such things for enjoyment or to be recognized, but is motivated by love and a desire to help instead. Remember, these are examples or short pictures of what a worthy woman does. Rarely does one need to use a spindle today, but there are many tasks which are not necessarily fun or enjoyable in and of themselves, but they still need to be done. Nevertheless, some enjoy these tasks and find great satisfaction in them because they are loving and selfless individuals. This is the type of individual being described in these verses as one who is worthy or virtuous.
“She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:18 NASB). When her goods are selling the virtuous wife works into the night to maintain production. She is not afraid to sacrifice herself somewhat when she knows things are going well and there would be a greater advantage for her to work overtime during this period of her life. This is describing a temporary situation, not her regular habits. The worthy wife would never neglect her family or herself for the sake of money.
“She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong” (Proverbs 31:17 NASB). These phrases supply us with a picture of a woman ready to work. The worthy wife has rolled up her sleeves and she is ready to work with vigor. She is not one who merely grits her teeth and endures the tasks at hand. She definitely isn’t one who gives up because the task before her is too great. She looks at what needs to be done and exerts herself to tackle it with the power of action.
“She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16 NASB). Having already taken care of her household (Proverbs 31:12-15), the virtuous wife now turns her attention to business opportunities. She is confident because her husband trusts her (Proverbs 31:11). She has her own earnings and uses those earnings to make more. She is capable of examining, purchasing, and putting real estate to a good purpose. This verse as well verses 17-19, show it is not wrong for a wife to earn a little extra income for the family. It must be remembered, however, the husband has the primary responsibility to provide financially for his family (1 Timothy 5:8) while the wife must be a manager of her home (Titus 2:4-5). The desire for more income should not take precedence over God’s design for the family.
“She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:14-15 NASB). The virtuous wife is now described as one who does what is needed to provide her household with food. She is self-motivated and stays busy. She does not sleep in when she needs to work. She buys and she sells trying to keep things in balance for the family. It takes organizational skills, time, and effort to achieve a well managed household.
“She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight” (Proverbs 31:13 NASB). The virtuous wife provides her household with clothes willingly and joyfully. She likes to work and enjoys what she does. She has developed a good, positive work ethic. Sadly, many today have the attitude that such work is dull and demeaning, not worthy of a person with talents (as if it did not take talent and intelligence to run a household). Such attitudes have been damaging to the home and family. This woman, however, has seen her duty and developed an attitude of joy and contentment. God wants us to enjoy what we do and any job as long as it is noble and honorable work can be and should be that which a person enjoys doing. Taking care of a family is most certainly noble and honorable work and anyone engaged in it should take delight in what they are accomplishing.
“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12 NASB). The virtuous wife constantly has her husband’s good in view. She is not one to mock him or ridicule him among others. She doesn’t undercut his authority, but instead helps him. She repays his kindness (hint, hint husbands) by her good deeds.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:11 NASB). The worthy woman’s relationship with her family is based upon a foundation of trust. A relationship without trust is weak. A husband must be able to trust his wife and a wife must be able to trust her husband. You cannot be together all the time. When a husband and wife trust each other, it is a gain for the family in many ways. It allows more work to be done and it removes the worry that one spouse or another is going to misuse money. If your relationship with your spouse lacks trust, something needs to change. Talk it over with your spouse, strive to be trustworthy, and begin trusting them and your relationship with be stronger than ever.
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10 NASB). The final section of Proverbs is a beautiful poem describing an excellent wife or a worthy woman. This is an acrostic section—each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet (there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet). Such arrangements were not only for organization, they also expressed the concept of thoroughness and completeness.
These verses show an ideal that women should strive to meet and men should look for in a mate. Excellent carries the idea of capable and strong and therefore valuable. Her worth is far above jewels implies that such a woman is rare. It is doubtful, however, all of these attributes are intended to be found in one woman at the same time. If a woman tried to live all of these at once all the time, she would have little to no sleep (cf. Proverbs 31:15 and 31:18b). Instead, this section is laying forth a number of qualities that would be considered excellent to find in any wife.
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NASB). We should strive to treat others fairly and take a stand for the mistreated. This was especially important for Lemuel who would serve as a king (cf. Proverbs 31:1). He needed to make sure what he did was fair and right. This isn’t just important for kings, however, it is important in whatever form of leadership we may find ourselves. As elders, as fathers, as husbands, as parents, as employers, we all need to do what we can to avoid mistreating others and help them instead. Leadership and authority are not given to us to lift ourselves up, they are given to us so that we can lift others up.