She seeks out wool and flax and works with willing hand [to develop it].
When I first looked at this verse I really did not know what it could mean. What I do know is that there is not one word in the Bible that is not supposed to be there so this verse has a very specific reason for being there and for saying what it says. As time goes on the Bible does not become less and less relevant. Customs, terminology and language develop and evolve but the heart of man does not. As the Bible is God’s manual to us, His creation, it must surely always apply. It is always relevant but as time goes on we sometimes need to seek a little harder to find the true meaning behind the words.
The Proverbs 31 woman is portrayed as a wealthy woman, probably a queen or a princess. This is not to make her unreachable but to demonstrate a very important principle. Queens, princesses and wealthy ladies were highly regarded and honoured for the skills they had. They were an example to women of lower rank and to their maidservants. They learned valuable skills and became masters at them to teach other women and to teach their maidservants. They were role models on how a woman should live and conduct herself. Queens, princesses and wealthy ladies were not there to be served but to serve, to teach, to encourage and to lift up other women.
Spinning wool and the making of beautiful clothes were highly regarded abilities. They were held in such high regard that a king often only wore clothes made by his family members as an honour to them and their clothes as an honour to him. A woman sought to clothe her husband because it was such an honour for her and the man loved being clothed by his wife because he could boast about how incredible she was. The skill was highly considered by men.
As time went on the rich became lazy. It got to such a point that Alexander the Great personally encouraged women to learn skills that made them attractive and useful. He only wore garments made for him by his mother, wife, daughters and granddaughters. He was tremendously proud of the garments and his women.
So how does this translate for us now? We do not need to seek out wool and flax and turn them into yarn and make clothes for our husbands and families. We have clothing stores that do it all for us. So how is this verse relevant to us today?
Wool used to be used to make outer garments and flax was used to make linen which was used to make inner garments or under garments or underwear. When we get dressed we put on underwear which is, hopefully, not seen by others and then we put on outer garments which are what the rest of the world sees. We do not put on one without the other.
Our outer garments are our outward acts of religion that others see. This includes our good works, our deeds, our obedience to the Word, how we present ourselves, care for ourselves and dress. It is everything that others see.
Our inner garments are our internal acts of religion. This includes our fear of God, our relationship with Him, our faith, hope, love and other attitudes we hold and how we exercise them. This is the new man that we are commanded to put on in Galatians 5:22-26 and Ephesians 4:22-24.
We cannot wear one garment without the other. We cannot appear to be godly (outer garment) but lack the inner garment. We are then powerless as explained in 1 Timothy 3:5. We are also like clanging cymbals and useless (1 Corinthians 13) because we lack the love that comes from within. Our actions are fake and people will see straight through us. We are just a noise with no power. Without the outer garment we are hearers of the Word but not doers. (James 1:22-27) Once again if we have everything in place inwardly but do nothing with it then it is called worthless. The two garments go together and the one without the other is of no use.
Now we need to put all this together. Skills are highly valued and external works together with internal works are also highly valued. What does that look like today?
Internally we are to make sure that we are working towards becoming like Christ. We should be spending time in the Word and praying every day. God should be an integral part of our everyday lives. We need to be soft-hearted and teachable with the attitude of, “Teach me, Holy Spirit. Change me to be more like you, Jesus. Show me how to be the woman You created me to be, Father.”
Externally we should be skilful. Acquiring skills that bring honour to us because we bring honour to our husbands and to our God, should be our goal.
A virtuous and worthy wife [earnest and strong in character] is a crowning joy to her husband, but she who makes him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. (AMPC)
1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (NKJV)
Our outward works make our men look good. Everything we do with skill and well makes our husbands looks good, makes them proud, gives them recognition and others honour them. We do not always realise the tremendous power we have in the lives of our husbands. We can make or break them. We can be a crowning joy or rottenness in his bones (cancer).
Now the skills we choose to learn are up to us. We should make wise choices and decide on skills that bring honour to us and therefore our husbands and God. We do not need to study interior decorating but we should be able to make a lovely, comfortable home for our families. We do not need to go to culinary school but we should be able to cook good food for our families. We need to know something of nutrition and how to care for our bodies and those of our family. We do not need to be seamstress’ but when our husbands’ need something repaired we should be able to do it or at least make sure it gets done. When our children need school play costumes or cakes for bake sale we should be able to either do it ourselves or make it happen. We do not need to go to fashion school but we should be able to dress with care and present ourselves with pride to our husbands and the outside world.
When people look at us they should be able to say, “I want to be like her.” This is because we live internally for our husbands and our God and externally we show the internal development. We become more like Jesus Christ.
Further study of the phrase “works with willing hands” actually shows that it means she also enjoys what she does and takes delight in it. Remember that God never puts us into bondage. His commandments do not bind us or place a heavy burden on us; they are easy and light. The only burden we have is the love of Jesus Christ. So whatever skills you choose to learn and develop do them with pleasure. Enjoy them. They are not a burden, they are fun! When you are motivated by a love of Christ His Spirit comes behind you and moves you forward.
I took Home Economics in high school. I loved the cooking and baking part and did really well at it. The sewing, handwork and needlework side was much more of a challenge for me. I struggled through. Just before I got married I decided to buy myself a sewing machine and give sewing a try again. I chose a pants pattern and it was a disaster. I tried making a pair of pajamas for myself and they fell apart on their first wash. I packed everything away and left it. A few years later when I was pregnant with my first daughter I decided to haul it all out and try once more. This time I prayed first. I committed my desire to learn to sew to the Lord and asked him to set me free of useless hands and to help me. I changed my whole mind set towards sewing. I took things slowly, I started with a really easy pattern and I was patient with myself. I made a padded duvet for my daughter’s cot and it is still in use today. That was in 2008! I will most probably never made an evening dress or a wedding dress but I can confidently sew many things. I enjoy it so much. It beings me pleasure and I have overheard my husband boasting to his friends that I can sew really well.
I learnt to cook in school but got a bit stuck in a rut and rather boring actually. I then found a cooking program called Chopped that was so fun to watch and I learnt so much from it. It inspired my creativity and took my cooking and baking to a whole other level. I now enjoy cooking for my family and events and they often boast on how well mommy can cook. My increase in skill has brought everyone joy, including myself. I know find cooking, sewing and crochet extremely therapeutic and relaxing. While I am making something useful, my mind can find peace and my soul pleasure. It is a definitely win-win situation.
Sometimes we make learning a skill a big thing that is going to take hours and hours we do not have and so much commitment that we just cannot give. This is not true. Learning a skill can be done slowly, bit by bit, with patience and experimentation. I found the TV program Chopped while channel hopping one Sunday afternoon. I watch it with my whole family while resting over the weekend. I have my sewing machines permanently set up on the end of my dining room table so I can experiment when I have a few spare moments.
Learning skills is fun and very good for you!