The Sweet Christian Bride

Proverbs 31 Wife: Grateful

by admin on March 29, 2012 in Faith, Purpose with 55 Comments

“She puts her hands to the distaff,

And her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor,

And reaches out her hands to the needy”

(Proverbs 31:19-20).

The best medicine for discontentment is gratitude.  We would all prefer for gratitude to bubble naturally from the spring of our spirit, but let’s be honest, it often doesn’t.  Sometimes gratitude is an exercise of discipline by which we instruct our minds in hope that our hearts and our spirits will follow.

This passage speaks volumes to me because of my desire to be out of an income-earning job and into a full-time writing, ministry, or mother-hood (when that day comes) opportunity.  Wanting to be somewhere other than where we are, translates (for most of us) to discontentment.  We want to tell God when and where is best for us.  At least I do anyway.

Jamieson Fausset Brown says of this passage, “No work, however mean, if honest, is disdained. Industry enables her to be charitable.”1  No honest work is disdained.  Hmm.  To unpack that a little: 1) honest work is an opportunity to provide for our families, 2) honest work is an opportunity to submit to authority and practice humility, 3) honest work is an opportunity to develop a skill set to be put to good use, 4) honest work is an opportunity to be refined by God through adversity, discipline, and challenge, 5) honest work is an opportunity to minister to God’s children in an environment we might not otherwise have access to, and 6) honest work is an opportunity to practice creating and serving, both of which are distinctly in God’s image.

As one who desires to provide, to respect authority, to practice humility, to grow in my talents, to be refined by God, to minister to God’s Kingdom, and to grow more in the image of Christ, how could I possibly resent the opportunity to work an honest job?  I should be grateful!

Easy for my mind to reason, but not always easy for my heart to buy into.  And when I’m not grateful, I’m not charitable.  This is where the exercise of gratitude comes into play.  This is where Brown becomes correct about industry empowering the Proverbs 31 Wife to be charitable.  For me, it goes something like this:

Lord, thank You that You have woken me up early, that I have life today, and that I get to witness the unblemished wonder of the morning.  Thank You that I have food to eat and warm tea to drink.  Thank You that You have blessed me with a roof over my head that includes privacy and clean, hot water in which I get to shower.  Thank You that I have a variety of clothes to choose from.  Thank You that You have afforded me a beautiful car that I love to drive in.  Thank You for KKLA and KFSH, both of which guide me into worship on my drive to work.  Thank You that I have a job with a wonderful boss and great colleagues.  Thank You that I get to make a difference in patients’ lives.  Thank You that I don’t have to commute in LA traffic to get there.  Thank You that many of my co-workers and patients share my faith and help to strengthen it each day.  Thank You that my boss listens to me and cares about how to make my working environment better.  Thank You that I get to interact with people I would otherwise not run into because of my days in the office.

The list gets as long as I need it to.  It all starts to sound pretty good when I reflect on the goodness.  And I intersperse it with prayers for God to change my heart, for Him to breathe life into my weary bones, to fix my eyes on Jesus not on circumstance, to be present and available to His presence, and to repent from my impatience, arrogance, and distrust.

If not during those prayers and statements of thanksgiving, then soon afterward, my heart changes enough for me to re-position myself away from discontentment and towards contentment.  And then, my industry enables me to live charitably, gratefully, and joyfully.

This job that the Proverbs 31 Wife does is not easy.  Remember, she has to first seek her flax and wool and prepare her household before she can sit down to actually make her merchandise, which we know is profitable and excellent.   Yet despite her long hours and intricate industry, she still reaches her hand to the needy!

Reaches is an active contact word that implies both willingness and pursuit.  These aren’t just needy people near her but also those far enough that she has to reach out to them.2  By the same hands that she does her work, she offers charity.

John Gill explains this craft of the hands: “The wheel itself [the spindle], which is laid hold on by the right hand, and turned round; […] the rock, stick, or staff [the distaff], about which the wool is wrapped, which is spun, and is held in the left hand; for though hands are mentioned in both clauses, yet it is only with one hand the wheel is turned, and the distaff held with the other.”3

Working with our hands doesn’t get the esteem it deserves in our idea-minded society.  But spinning was quite a fashionable vocation for women; it is where we get the term spinster for unmarried women, meaning that they have taken to an arduous vocation that will provide for them.4  I find that deeply honorable, no matter how crass we have made it sound with our slang.  And her hands, which have slaved over the wool, are the very hands that are reaching out to the needy.

Her work does not fatigue or disillusion her.  It does not dampen her spirits or bring her to despair.  She is content to minister in the very position she finds herself.  That kind of charitable, contentedness does not blossom in a soil void of gratitude.


1 Brown, Jamieson Fausset. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Accessed 28 March 2012. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/proverbs/proverbs-31.html

2. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Accessed 28 March 2012. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/proverbs/31.html?p=4

3. Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible. Accessed 28 March 2012. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/proverbs-31-19.html

4. Wesley, John. Wesley’s Explanatory Notes. Accessed 28 March 2012. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/wesleys-explanatory-notes/proverbs/proverbs-31.html?p=2

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