A wife of noble character: she makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. Proverbs 31, verse 24.
Today, let’s return to some of the things a wife of noble character does. Paraphrasing Mr. Jefferson, the truth of her works is self-evident. What she does is because of what you don’t see, yet the truth you don’t see is still self-evident in those works. What the wife of noble character does is, in the case of this verse, make salable goods. In the time it was written, she would make fine garments and sell them, and she would sell fine sashes to merchants who would then re-sell them for handsome profits.
In other words, she produces. She takes good things and makes them better. She supplies and purchases; she is able to produce a profit from her hard work. Everybody is better because of that.
Where do you stop giving praises for someone of such character?
I think that any society lauds hard work. I’m thankful for many things, but one of the things for which I’m most thankful is that my kids have good work ethics. All three were at work outside our home when they were 16; all three worked hard at their jobs. The older two are each in jobs many times subsequent to that original position (which, for both of them, was at a local ice cream shop). Youngest child works as a bus boy at a Mexican restaurant. I was up VERY early this morning because he came home after work very excited. In two days, he tipped out $120. That’s a phenomenal amount considering that he isn’t even the server. What it is means he is a hard worker.
Both his mom and I work hard, but I’m giving her the biggest credit for instilling in our kids the work ethic that now serves them well.
Notice that the verse doesn’t say that she LIKES working so hard. Perhaps it’s still a virtuous thing for a person of noble character to do their work but not be fond of it. We were born to work, but any of us wishes for a time when we wouldn’t HAVE TO work so hard. I find that the times when I enjoy work the most are the times when I’m doing something I enjoy for which I’m well-prepared. Perhaps it is the same for the wife of noble character. It’s a pleasing thing to make something or do something that is held in high regard. That kind of feedback or reward makes it more worthwhile. Yet even in those times, don’t we all long for some rest? Don’t we all long to have a job that we want to do but don’t have to do? I’m not going on vacation for another 3 months and I’m already eagerly anticipating it. I think our American society today is very consumed with leisure, viewing work as a negative thing that we have to tolerate. The wife of noble character may not see much that is pleasing in work, but I believe she would (like any of us) be pleased when it has a successful or rewarding outcome.
That’s how God designed it. He designed Adam and Eve to work the garden, and that work was to be fulfilling. Before the fall, that work was rewarding, even an act of worship. After the fall, that relationship of God to man to work was corrupted. After, we would be compelled to work for our survival, only getting glimpses of the true reward that work can be. The verse seems to say that the wife of noble character works hard to make fine things that will net a profit and a just reward. I believe she has her eye on what it was in Eden. Her wares will earn her praise; her sales will earn her profits and those profits will secure her family.
Work, thus, is an act of love.
It’s also a thing of craftsmanship. The things the verse talks about – linen garments and sashes – weren’t things of ordinary commonplace. They were of best quality, fine products made with careful talent from the best materials. Earlier verses talk about her spinning flax into fine linen. That was done to make the garments described here, or those fine linen sheets for bed use. Making these things takes skill, refined talent, and many hours of dedication and patience.
Nothing has changed. The wife of noble character today still plies her trade with careful craftsmanship and abiding patience. She works in the discount store at a job she didn’t dream of but that she is thankful to have in tough times. She works at home, making sticks and bricks into safe, encouraging refuge. She works in my office, testing applications and leading a team of experts in doing that. She leads a company, volunteers in school, flies an airplane, anchors a TV show, treats patients, empties the trash at the airport, or drives all day. And a wife of noble character works like mine, as a director at a pre-school, shepherding children, helping other employees, and quietly witnessing God’s love simply by smiling and being a friendly face. She pours her talents into doing her best and her witness is self-evident.
Simply said, a woman of noble character is Godly in what she does. Boil it all down, and that’s the best way to describe her and the way she works.
Two of my three kids are still teenagers, but all three are young adults. I wish we could afford to provide them with new cars, the most fashionable clothes, trendy vacations and the best of everything for free. That’s impossible: we aren’t in Congress. They won’t be getting those things from me, but if they work hard and use the ethic best demonstrated by their noble character mom, then nothing in life is impossible. If they do that and cling to the faith of their fathers, then no matter where life takes them they will know real success as peace.