What does a wise woman do?
We have seen what the character of a wise woman is like. Now let’s take a look at how she spends her time.
The woman described in this passage was a good businesswoman. Look at all she did in and outside the home: She selected the best products; bought and managed real estate; engaged in agriculture; managed her financial accounts; made thread/yarn, clothing for her family, and bed coverings for her household; established and ran a clothing industry. As we examine this list, we realize that she had a varied business interests and her accomplishments required both long-term and short-term planning.
Her first enterprise was oriented toward short-term goals. “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. . . She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes” (Proverbs 31:14 and 24). The business described in these verses was one with a fairly immediate return. She bought raw materials, made things, sold them, and gained a profit. It also can be noted that the sashes she made were worn in those days to bind up clothing so the person wearing them could work more effectively. On a spiritual level, we can see that she was producing something that helped people serve better. If we are engaged in business, it’s gratifying if that enterprise can be one that enables people to do their work well, to be better people, or to serve God and others with more effectiveness.
But we find that she is not satisfied in looking just to short-term accomplishments. She has long-term plans, too. “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16). This is a plan that requires some time. She investigates the real estate market, makes a decision, purchases the property, plants it, and waits for the harvest - several years for a vineyard.
She has a balanced portfolio of both long- and short-term returns on the businesses she engages in. This woman plans carefully and then works her plans out in the day-to-day responsibilities of her life.
And she doesn’t just work diligently. She stops periodically to check on how she is doing. “She sees that her trading is profitable” (Proverbs 31:18a). Every now and then we must pause in our endeavors to make sure that what we are doing is producing what we expect – whether in seeing evidence of understanding in the lives of our children, fruit in our own spiritual lives, economic provision, or building of valued relationships.
If we find what we are doing isn’t working, we need to make adjustments. We probably won’t get different results if we keep doing the same things in the same ways. Evaluation takes discipline, but it must be done if we are to walk in the ways of the wise.
No one could accuse this woman of being lazy. In fact, we are almost breathless trying to keep up with her! “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27). This godly woman seems to work with enthusiasm. She likes what she does and, as a result, she is energized. People like to be around those who are enjoying their tasks and are reaching toward their goals with an expectation of achieving them.
To me, the word “idleness” implies self-focus, self-pity; engaging in gossip; expressing discontent. Women (and men, too) who engage in these types of activities will never be happy, will never see the pay-off of their efforts, and will always be looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (and that is not a biblical concept!). Diligence doesn’t mean the woman of wisdom can never sit down and rest (God gave us Sabbaths after all!), but it means that self-indulgent rest is not as important to her as behaving responsibly and living purposefully.
Provides for her family
“. . . her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:18b). I always thought that meant she worked late into the night, but a Hebrew scholar recently corrected me. The fact that this woman’s lamp burns all night simply means she has plenty of oil. She has provided abundantly for her family so they live in security and light. Often in Scripture oil represents the Holy Spirit. So, maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to think that her provision for her family includes not only materials things, but spiritual instruction and sense of God’s presence as well.
This interpretation also makes me think of Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins. Remember? Five were foolish and five were wise. The wise ones, like the wise woman of Proverbs, had planned ahead and had ample oil to last the long night while waiting for the bridegroom. Seems there is always a choice between being wise and being foolish, isn’t there? Which are we choosing today?