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THE WISE WOMAN BUILDS HER HOME
The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.
PROVERBS 14:1 NASB
Virtuous, trustworthy, energetic, physically fit, economical, unselfish, prepared, honorable, prudent, lovable, and God-fearing are eleven qualities pictured by the Wise Woman of Proverbs in 31:10-31. Many believe that the woman described in this passage is simply a fantasy rather than a real woman whose life twenty-first-century Christian women are challenged to model in their own lives. However, the immutability (changelessness) of God would be in question if Proverbs 31:10-31 were not timelessly relevant. If we think that God changed His mind about one passage of Scripture, how can we be sure that He has not changed His mind about others? J. I. Packer, in Knowing God, lists six attributes of God that are helpful to be reminded of before we study the eleven principles suggested in Proverbs 31:10-31 that help the Wise Woman build her home.
1. God's life does not change.
2. God's character does not change.
3. God's truth does not change.
4. God's ways do not change.
5. God's purposes do not change.
6. God's Son does not change.
Since God does not change, then fellowship with Him, trust in His Word, living by faith, and embracing His principles are the same realities for twenty-first-century believers as they were for those of the Old and New Testaments. The description of the Wise Woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 is not designed to develop an inferiority complex within us—rather, it provides a biblical foundation for the creation of principles by which we, as Wise Women in progress, live our lives. While the outward historical context has changed since King Lemuel wrote Proverbs 31, the character principles have not.
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Martha, a college sophomore, was well-known throughout the college community for plainly speaking her mind. She appeared at my office door one afternoon with several forms in her hand, and stated, "I need to see you about changing my major to Home Economics." Since she was already a second-semester sophomore, I had the obligation to tell her that she could delay her graduation by changing majors at this point in her education. "That's all right," she replied, "Titus 2:3-5 says the younger women are to learn from the older, so I am changing my major so I can learn from you—if it takes longer, God will provide the resources for me." As she left my office I pondered Martha's words; she was right. I enjoyed the priceless privilege of imparting godly character to the younger women (though at that time they didn't realize that I was not that much older than they were), and she was to be commended on having the strength of character to acknowledge that ...
THE WISE WOMAN LEARNS FROM THE WISDOM OF OTHERS
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.
PSALM 111:10 NASB
Biblical wisdom "is both religious and practical. Stemming from the fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), it branches out to touch all of life, as the extended commentary on wisdom in Proverbs indicates. Wisdom takes insights gleaned from the knowledge of God's way and applies them in the daily walk." Scripture provides the basis for wise instruction (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:6, reminds believers that "these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they [the Israelites] also lusted." Titus 2:4-5 instructs the older women to "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be dishonored" (NASB). Solomon taught his son that "fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). Our Wise Woman possesses a heart open to learning from the experience and wisdom of others.
The MacArthur Study Bible introduces the book of "Proverbs" by stating, "The proverbs are short, pithy sayings which express timeless truth and wisdom. They arrest one's thoughts, causing the reader to reflect on how one might apply divine principles to life situations.... To the Hebrew mind, wisdom was not knowledge alone, but the skill of living a godly life as God intended man to live."
ELEVEN PRINCIPLES OF THE WISE WOMAN
Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.
Essential to us becoming Wise Women is the personal application of biblical principles that stimulate our decisions and actions.Principle is defined as "an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct." Pondering the question, "What are my specific abilities, heritage, and talents that make me unique and determine my actions or conduct?" will determine the way we apply the principles to our lives. Their application ultimately determines our character—and whether we are considered Wise Women or fools. Let's take a look at eleven principles that will keep us away from foolish behavior.
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The afternoon sky was dark and rain was pounding against the windows when the handsome young man entered the Home Economics Center. He surveyed the now empty building and paused at my office door. "Are you Dr. Ennis?" he inquired. "I am, and how may I help you?" "Is it true that the purpose of Home Economics at The Master's College is to build godly women?" "Yes, it is," I replied. He probed further, "How many students do you have in the major?" "As you know, this is the first semester to offer Home Economics, and I have twenty women in our introductory character course." "May I have a list of their names?" Working diligently to maintain a straight face, I replied, "I think if you observe the students carefully you will be able to identify them." "You are telling me you won't give me their names?" was his response. "Yes, that would violate their privacy." "Well, Dr. Ennis, I do understand, but you sure would save me a lot of time if you would just give me a list!" He thanked me for my time; as the door closed behind him, I thought, Now there is a young man who values a woman who embraces ...
PRINCIPLE ONE: THE PRINCIPLE OF VIRTUOUS
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
(Proverbs 31:10 NASB)
Moral excellence, right actions, and thinking that is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, possessing virtue, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8-9) describe the quality of being virtuous. Virtue is an effective power that is to fill all the thoughts, actions, and relationships of our Wise Woman. When integrated into her life, this quality graciously generates power and demands respect.
Our Wise Woman establishes godly guidelines for living according to the Scriptures and determines, through the strength of the Holy Spirit, to abide by them (Philippians 4:13). The Old Testament book of Ruth describes such a woman. Ruth 3:11 is the only scriptural reference to a "virtuous" woman and explains that Boaz knew of Ruth because of her reputation for purity; in contrast, Rahab's reputation as a harlot followed her throughout the Scriptures (Joshua 2:1; 6:17; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). Though God saved Rahab and by His grace allowed her to be included in the messianic line (Matthew 1:5), her reputation as a harlot lingered.
Our Wise Woman is a crown to her husband. A woman lacking in virtue causes him shame and produces suffering that is like a painful, incurable disease (Proverbs 12:4). A woman's character prior to marriage determines her quality as a marital spouse—thus the importance of every Christian woman's embracing virtue at an early age. To live a life characterized by virtue should be the ambition of every Christian woman (Matthew 5:8).
PRINCIPLE TWO: THE PRINCIPLE OF TRUSTWORTHY
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12 NASB)
The quality of being trustworthy is demonstrated by behaviors that lead to confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, and loyalty of an individual. Integrity, the quality or state of being complete (Colossians 2:10), is demonstrated through how one handles prosperity because abundance tends to reveal our value system (1 Corinthians 10:1-10).
The character of our Wise Woman motivates her husband to respond with trust (Proverbs 31:11). This trustworthy lifestyle includes the nurturing of security, love, service, limits, freedom, enjoyment, faith, and encouragement. Her husband and those under her leadership are challenged to reach their full potential (Proverbs 18:22; 19:14). She understands that she has the ability to feed or starve their character and thus handles this privilege through the strength of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
Our Wise Woman can live in today's world with or without a husband. My life is an example of such a woman—I am a single woman who, in the words of John MacArthur, God has kept single to allow me to serve Him most effectively (1 Corinthians 7:1-8). I am an orphan, as well, with no earthly relatives—which frees me to serve my heavenly Father without encumbrances. As I implement Psalm 37:3-4; Proverbs 3:5-6; and Jeremiah 29:11-13, my trust in my heavenly Father affirms that He is a sun and shield; He gives grace and glory, and there is no good thing that He withholds from me if I walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). I use this statement frequently when people ask how I can know how to cook, sew, and maintain a well-managed home and not be married! If married, her husband's response to her character is trust. If unmarried, trustworthiness is the evaluation of those closest to her.
The fruit of trustworthiness is an understanding, encouraging, sympathetic, and tactful spirit. A trustworthy woman has the ability to retain another's confidence (Proverbs 10:19). As I counsel with women who experience difficulty in applying theprinciple of trustworthy to their speech, I encourage them to say, "Stop, please do not tell me that—I am not trustworthy!" when someone begins to share information they know they cannot refrain from passing on. I find they do not need to repeat the phrase many times before their speech habits are corrected. Stability in her life, based upon a growing relationship with the Lord rather than circumstances (James 1:5-6), the ability to resist temptation, and dependability (1 Corinthians 10:12-13) describe the trustworthy woman.
PRINCIPLE THREE: THE PRINCIPLE OF ENERGETIC
She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight. 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. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.... She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor; And she stretches out her hands to the needy.... She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.... She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:13-16, 19-20, 24, 27 NASB)
Being energetic suggests strength or power efficiently exerted. A Wise Woman knows her assets and liabilities, develops her talents, and is a worker, not a shirker. She works willingly with her hands (the word hand is used six times in the twenty-two verses of Proverbs 31:10-31) and sets an example for her children by her personal and physical involvement in the management of her home. The woman described in Proverbs 31 trained her servants and then supervised the tasks they performed. She was actively involved in her well-managed household (v. 27), fabric and garment construction (vv. 13, 24), trading in the marketplace (v. 24), and ministry to others (vv. 19-20).
Application to the twenty-first century finds our Wise Woman training her children and then supervising them to efficiently use their "electrical servants." At the same time, she is involved in Christian services that complement those of her children, rather than neglecting them to perform "her ministries." Because her role model is Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), who cares much more about those under Him than they care about Him, she is not easily discouraged if others do not compliment her endeavors.
PRINCIPLE FOUR: THE PRINCIPLE OF PHYSICALLY FIT
She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. (Proverbs 31:17 NASB)
Physical fitness, that is, being in good physical condition and healthy, is enthusiastically affirmed by many twenty-first-century women. The biblical application is defined by three words: suitable, proper, and fit; they describe our Wise Woman's attitude toward the condition of her body. Suitable guides her in the selection of physical toning activities that prepare her to fulfill the demands of her life. Proper encourages her to select activities that are dictated by good judgment. Fit expands the definition to challenge her to possess the qualifications necessary to meet conditions, circumstances, purposes, or demands. Our Wise Woman described in Proverbs 31:17 is physically fit because of the rigorous work she does to maintain a well-run home.
A study of body mechanics helps us understand that much of the movement associated with the care of the home tones the body comparably with hours spent at the gym. First Timothy 4:8 directs Wise Women to the truth that "bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things;" thus our Wise Woman will be more concerned about her character without neglecting her body tone (1 Peter 3:3-6). The guidelines that follow help our Wise Woman balance her physical and spiritual fitness.
She has a realistic attitude toward her personal capabilities. God provides health boundaries to assist us in being sensible about the responsibilities we assume. Just because she can perform a skill does not mean that she should. Purposely pushing beyond safe health boundaries would be like jumping off a bridge and then praying on the way down that you won't get hurt!
She acknowledges that her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; it is her responsibility to make it a fit dwelling place for Him (1 Corinthians 6:1920). It is a sobering thought to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit will not empower a spiritually dirty vessel.
She realizes that she must be healthy to perform her duties efficiently. Applying this guideline requires the freedom from all habits that would injure her physically, mentally, or spiritually (Romans 12:1-2).
She understands the importance of recreation to maintain a healthy body. Mark 6:31 and Luke 9:10 describe our Lord's sensitivity to his disciples' need for rest and privacy from their demanding ministry. Our Wise Woman will adopt our Lord's model.
She accepts the fact that sometimes "others can, she cannot." It is an exercise in futility to compare her capabilities with those of others, since each woman is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
She has a clear perspective regarding her body cycling and wisely accommodates its ebb and flow. The regular physical conditioning of our Wise Woman allows her to be involved in the lives of others. She balances the care of her home with the care of her body to avoid becoming a worried, frazzled, and defensive woman who sacrifices herself on the altar of domesticity or physical fitness.
PRINCIPLE FIVE: THE PRINCIPLE OF ECONOMICAL
She senses that her gain is good, her lamp does not go out at night. (Proverbs 31:18 NASB)
Budget and diet—two words that conjure up visions of economic and nutritional deprivation. Each word, however, has both a positive and negative definition. A budget can be established for either a high or a low income. A diet can constitute a high or a low daily caloric intake. The quality of being economical challenges our Wise Woman to refrain from wasting time, money, fuel, or any other resource. Application of the principle economical insures that she operates her home on a budget (a plan for spending) and that monthly it balances (not too much month at the end of the money).
The Wise Woman of Proverbs 31 perceives that her merchandise is good. As an accomplished seamstress and nutritionist, she recognizes quality. With practiced eye, she seeks out a bargain that reflects excellence. At the same time, her knowledge and skill allow her to make the best decision of whether to make the purchase, pay for the service, or personally perform the task.
Most twenty-first-century women can identify with their "lamp not going out at night" because of the impacted schedules they maintain. However, this verse does not suggest that our Wise Woman deprives herself of sleep. Just as exercise contributes to a physically fit body, so sleep is necessary to a woman's mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.
Excerpted from Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God by Pat Ennis, Lisa Tatlock. Copyright © 2003 Patricia A. Ennis And Lisa Tatlock. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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Posted March 17, 2011
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