Fine “Workers at Home”
PAUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ, once urged elderly Christian women to set a good example for their more youthful spiritual sisters. Among other things, this would motivate the younger women to be “workers at home.”—Titus 2:3-5.
What does the expression “workers at home” mean to you? In answering that question, a young Christian woman stated: “I feel that to be ‘workers at home’ would include many things. Obviously, it would mean keeping one’s home neat and clean. But, also, it would include working to care for one’s family, so that they would have wholesome meals to eat and proper clothing to wear. To put it very simply, she [the ‘worker at home’] should follow the description of a good wife and mother at Proverbs 31:10-31.” An elderly Christian woman said the expression “workers at home” reminded her of the same portion of the Bible book of Proverbs.
There we find certain “words of Lemuel the king,” possibly those of Solomon. This description of “a capable wife” was based on “the weighty message that his mother gave to him in correction.” (Prov. 31:1) But these words do not reflect merely human wisdom, for they were divinely inspired. Hence, what is said here represents God’s view and surely merits careful consideration by Christian women who desire to be fine “workers at home.”
VALUE OF “A CAPABLE WIFE”
First, King Lemuel discusses the value of a good wife. Well, what is a housewife’s economic value? Recently, the United States Social Security Administration tried to determine this on the basis of wages in that country for such jobs as babysitting and cooking. According to 1972 data and figures described as “very conservative,” a housewife’s highest worth is attained between twenty-five and twenty-nine years of age, when her yearly economic value was placed at $6,417. Of course, some may wonder how a housewife’s value can be determined at all, in view of the old saying, “Man may work from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done.”
Even if a person does not agree with those statistics or that saying, there is no question that a good wife should be valued highly. King Lemuel declared: “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals. In her the heart of her owner [her husband] has put trust, and there is no gain lacking. She has rewarded him with good, and not bad, all the days of her life.” (Prov. 31:10-12) Yes, “a capable wife” is more precious than the highly prized ornaments that artisans fashion from the colorful corals taken from seas. She is trustworthy, too, and does good things for her husband throughout their life together. But what are her activities?
HER HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES
King Lemuel described “a capable wife” of ancient Israel. However, Christian women of today can profitably analyze their circumstances in the light of such a fine wife’s activities. If a Bible is at hand, why not read Proverbs 31:10-31 right now? Then, suppose we step back in time and take a closer look at the pursuits of “a capable wife.”
First, please consider this woman’s interest in the clothing worn by her family. “Her hands she has thrust out to the distaff, and her own hands take hold of the spindle.” (Prov. 31:19) Likely, in her left hand she holds the distaff, a stick on which fibers (perhaps of flax or wool) are loosely wound. These are attached to the spindle, a shorter stick with a hook at one end to hold the fibers and a heavy disk near the other end. With the right hand, the woman twirls the hanging spindle, thus twisting the fibers. What is her purpose? Why, this capable wife is even making her own thread or yarn!
“She has sought wool and linen,” says Lemuel, “and she works at whatever is the delight of her hands.” (Pr 31 Vs. 13) Among the Hebrews most garments were made of wool or linen. Probably this “capable wife” purchases the finest material she can find at the most reasonable prices. Then she works with willing hands to make this into excellent garments for her family. To her this work is a delight!
Members of this woman’s household possess heavy double garments that protect them during cold, snowy weather. She herself is attired in costly clothing, though her fine garments are not gaudy or immodest. (Compare the apostolic counsel that Christian women “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” [1 Tim. 2:9]) Her husband is dressed suitably for association with the older men, and her industriousness does not escape their notice. In fact, she has even made undergarments and belts that she can sell to merchants and thus realize a profit.
Lemuel put matters this way: “She does not fear for her household because of the snow, for all her household are clothed with double garments. Coverlets she has made for herself. Her clothing is of linen and wool dyed reddish purple. Her owner is someone known in the gates, when he sits down with the older men of the land. She has made even undergarments and proceeded to sell them, and belts she has given to the tradesmen.”—31 Vss. 21-24.
The capable wife is just as industrious in providing wholesome food for the household. As merchant vessels bring fine products from afar, so this woman seeks choice foods, even if she must obtain them from distant places. “She has proved to be like the ships of a merchant. From far away she brings in her food.”—31 Vs. 14.
It is not customary for this woman to sleep until the sun is shining brightly. She arises before dawn, perhaps to start baking bread. As for the young women in the household, they have no complaint for want of food or assigned work. This capable wife sees to it that they have something to eat and duties to perform. “She also gets up while it is still night, and gives food to her household and the prescribed portion to her young women.”—31 Vs. 15.
Certain aspects of household management are entrusted to this woman by her husband. She handles all these affairs with his approval and direction. For example, a certain plot of ground is for sale at a good price, but the woman buys it only after careful consideration. In fact, as a result of her own industrious and practical efforts, she has accumulated some funds that enable her to acquire property. She may even do some outdoor work. At least she sees to it that the ground acquired is put to good use. We are told: “She has considered a field and proceeded to obtain it; from the fruitage of her hands she has planted a vineyard.”—31 Vs. 16.
Any observer can see that this woman is industrious and capable. “She has girded her hips with strength, and she invigorates her arms.” (31 Vs. 17) This fine wife is not afraid to exert herself, but does her work with vigor. Furthermore, “she has sensed that her trading is good.” Her activities are profitable, and she may give special attention to those that are most productive. So industrious is this woman that “her lamp does not go out at night.” (31 Vs. 18) This may be a figurative expression meaning that she works industriously late into the night and even rises before dawn for further work.
Because this woman handles matters capably and her efforts are rewarding, she feels secure and does not experience anxiety about the future. Rather, she is confident, has a sound mind, and possesses the strength needed to endure the hardships of life. Indeed, “strength and splendor are her clothing, and she laughs at a future day.”—31 Vs. 25.
The capable wife also thinks before she speaks, and her words are not spoken in a domineering tone. She may remind one of Abigail, who “was good in discretion and beautiful in form.” (1 Sam. 25:3) Yes, the capable wife speaks with kindness, whether she is talking to the children, the servants or others. As a faithful wife and mother, she helps her husband to teach the children, also encouraging the young ones to accept and follow their father’s fine discipline and instruction. Clearly, she is not an idle or lazy woman. “Her mouth she has opened in wisdom, and the law of loving-kindness is upon her tongue,” says King Lemuel. “She is watching over the goings on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat.”—31 Vss. 26, 27.
This excellent wife also is generous and a doer of good to individuals outside the household. “Her palm she has stretched out to the afflicted one, and her hands she has thrust out to the poor one,” seeking to be of aid. (31 Vs. 20) This woman is not selfish, but is quite loving and generous.
REWARDS OF “A CAPABLE WIFE”
Many are the duties of the capable wife. But she enjoys rich blessings and rewards for her good works. Her industry, discretion, wisdom and other fine qualities endear her to members of her family. “Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner [her husband] rises up, and he praises her. There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.” (31 Vss. 28, 29) Yes, the boys of the family are grateful for such a fine mother, and her husband is happy to have this excellent woman as his wife.
Charm and prettiness may fade with illness and age. But this woman has a lasting inner beauty because she is devoted to Jehovah God and has a healthy fear of displeasing him. Her love for God, coupled with her good works, brings the capable wife commendation and praise. Why, her fine deeds are spoken of approvingly even in the gates, the city’s news center! She is reminiscent of Ruth, to whom Boaz said: “Everyone in the gate of my people is aware that you are an excellent woman.”—Ruth 3:11.
The capable wife has not inappropriately received the praise of others; it has come to her as a result of “her works.” That is, she has earned such esteem. So, in concluding this description of “a capable wife,” King Lemuel says: “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself. Give her of the fruitage of her hands, and let her works praise her even in the gates.”—31 Vss. 30, 31.
A BALANCED LIFE
The capable wife undoubtedly maintained a clean, pleasant home. After all, cleanliness was emphasized among God’s people. For instance, the priests were obligated to be physically and ceremonially clean when serving before Jehovah God. (Ex. 30:17-21) A clean, neat home is appreciated by every member of the family. But, of course, all can help to keep it that way by being neat themselves. On the other hand, the thoughtful ‘worker at home’ will be wise if she takes a balanced view and does not place such emphasis on tidiness that her husband and children are ill at ease about using certain furniture for its intended purpose.
The life of the capable wife was one of balanced activity. She did not spend so much time in one pursuit that she ignored other important duties. For example, she made articles of clothing, some of which she sold at a profit. But she did not let success in this pursuit draw her away from other essential work, such as giving food to her household. (Prov. 31:13-15, 21-24) A fine example for Christian “workers at home”!
For most people in ancient Israel, dawn opened the day’s activity and dusk brought it to a close. The psalmist said: “The sun begins to shine . . . Man goes forth to his activity and to his service until evening.” (Ps. 104:22, 23) But for many—including the capable wife—the workday began before sunrise. (Prov. 31:15) At any rate, when the husband left home for work, he could be confident that his capable wife would take good care of household matters. At day’s end, he did not feel like staying away from home because it was an unpleasant place, neglected by a lazy wife. Rather, his helpmate had balanced out her activities so that she would not be negligent in some way and thus cause unhappiness.
So, the husband was eager to return to his comfortable, well-kept home. There he could spend delightful hours with his loving, capable wife and their children. No, his wife would not be working every moment. A balanced life calls for some relaxation. Sometimes it would be wholesome conversation, perhaps mixed with occasional humor, for there is “a time to laugh.”—Eccl. 3:1, 4.
Because the capable wife balanced out her many responsibilities, she had time to do good things for the poor and afflicted. (Prov. 31:20) Similarly, Christian “workers at home” schedule their activities in such a way that they have time to do good to others, as when sharing with them the good news of God’s kingdom.—Matt. 24:14.
Happiness and rich blessings are realized by Christian women who earnestly follow King Lemuel’s divinely inspired description of “a capable wife.” They thus enjoy the satisfaction of gaining the approval of their husbands. (1 Cor. 7:34) While not working merely to acquire praise, they do receive the commendation of their husbands, children and others. Most important of all, these Christian women have the joy that results from pleasing Jehovah God as fine “workers at home.”