“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” So begins what is undoubtedly the most famous (or most notorious) chapter of Proverbs. Written by King Lemuel, this chapter, the thirty-first, includes a poem praising the excellent wife. It has provided fodder for shelves of books and for countless sermons. You know it well, I am sure. Though the verses are most often preached and applied to women, within the context of the book it seems to me that the verses were really meant to be for young men. In this passage they are to see the kind of woman who is so unlike the temptress, the sluggard and many of the other characters in Proverbs. Of course it also stands as a valuable challenge to godly women.
There is much we can say about this excellent wife, but lately my thoughts have been drawn to one aspect of her life. Throughout the poem we read lines that suggests this excellent wife runs a small business–she is an entrepreneur. As part of her life as a mother and wife she buys and sells, builds and trades. She supplements the family income and gives to the poor through the money she earns in this business venture.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
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.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
It merits mention that nowhere in the Bible would we find that this portrayal is normative for all women; we do not have to believe that a woman cannot be a faithful wife and mother unless she runs some kind of business. But I do know many women, aspiring Proverbs 31 women, who have begun businesses. In fact, I’ve been impressed lately in the ways I’ve seen Christian women exercising a lot of ingenuity in emulating that Proverbs 31 woman. They are finding ways of turning what they love to do into small businesses. The context has changed, of course. I do not know too many who are buying and selling fields and planting vineyards. But I have seen many reacting to the new realities of the twenty-first century by creating other kinds of businesses. They are Proverbs 31 women for the twenty-first century.
Here are just a few examples:
- My friend Becky has begun making jewellery and selling it through an Etsy shop.
- My cousin Johannah is creating handcrafted creations of all kinds and selling them online.
- Liz creates Pressed flower cards and art on handmade paper.
- Aileen sells CD racks, cabinets and furniture through an eBay store.
The common thread with these jobs is that they can all be done from the home and they can all be done in “spare time” (something of an oxymoron when it comes to mothers!). These women are doing jobs that allow them to adapt to new realities and allow them to place their families first, even while earning supplemental income.
I would love to know of other similar examples of how Christian women today are creating their own small businesses (and in the future I hope to create a post showcasing some of them). If you have such a business or if you know someone who does, please leave a comment and tell us about it.