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Understanding the "Working" Proverbs: 31 Woman

Written by the COGBF Women's Ministry Staff: March 22, 2015

Many of today’s modern Christian women are deeply immersed in balancing various crucial roles including: church, wife and mother with demanding careers. They are born again believers in Christ and are fully committed to contributing to their churches.

They have a committed prayer-life and are involved with numerous ministry auxiliaries but also have professional careers. These energy demands can oft-time strain all of their responsibilities including those in the church. Consequently, it is essential that effective women’s ministries address the challenges of working women and develop comprehensive programs accordingly.      

It is important to note that women who are full-time home-makers also have incredibly challenging lives without much fanfare or appreciation. In fact, it would be a luxury if every mother could take a few years from work to focus on her family but that either cannot or does not happen in many cases. Successful women’s ministries should also program to address these unique circumstances.

Some ministries dogmatically teach women to avoid professional careers but that is antithetical to the many examples in the Bible. Today’s Christian woman is often compared to the Proverbs 31 woman which reads in verses 10-12:

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

In this passage, the Bible speaks of her role as an amazing wife but that is not her complete story. When reading a little further in Proverbs 31: 16-18 we learn that this “perfect woman” was also involved in business and commerce:

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

In addition to caring for her husband and children, this ultimate Proverbs 31 woman located real estate, negotiated the price and closed the sale. In Proverbs 31:16 it reads “Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”  Yes this Proverbs 31 woman “earned money” as was confirmed again in verse 18: “She sees that her trading is profitable.”

There were many other working women in the Bible including Lydia who was described on Biblegateway this way:

"Thyatira was conspicuous for its many guilds which were united by common pursuits and religious rites. One of these guilds was that of dyers. The water of the area was so well-adapted for dyeing, that no other place could produce the scarlet cloth out of which fezzes were so brilliantly and so permanently dyed. This unique purple dye brought the city universal renown. Lydia was a well-known seller of this product (Acts 16:14), and typifies a successful business woman in a prosperous city. Ability, enthusiasm, singleness of purpose and mental acumen were hers, and she prospered greatly in an honorable and extensive calling of “selling purple.” Lydia was an example of the comparatively independent position some women attained to in Asia Minor. That she became prosperous in business is seen in that she owned a spacious home, and had servants to care for her."

Many other examples include Ruth worked in the fields: Ruth 2:23 and Priscilla who was a tent maker:

"For one thing, they made their living together. “For by trade they were tent-makers” (Acts 18:3). Every Jewish boy in New Testament times was taught some kind of trade. Since tents were such a prominent part of Hebrew life, Aquila’s parents chose to have their son learn this practical means of earning his livelihood. Their tents were made of rough goat’s hair fabric which took great skill to cut and sew properly. Aquila had acquired that skill and later taught it to his wife, and she happily assisted him in his business."

Finally, it is crucial that those involved in women’s ministries should address the diversity of all of its participants. Professional career women have circumstances that present unique challenges and women’s ministries should program to include their varied needs.