“She is like the merchant ships, bring her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31:14-15
Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible.
Over the years I have gained countless amounts of wisdom from this one short chapter, and studying it again for this project has been no exception.
As many people hold Proverbs 31 to be the standard of excellence for godly mothers, wives, and homemakers, I expected there to be a whole lot in this chapter about food. After all, planning meals, acquiring food, preparing it for my family, and cleaning up afterward constitute a huge portion of what I do as stay-at-home mom.
It surprised me (and it might surprise you, too) that on a closer examination of this passage, only three verses close to the beginning mention food.
Here they are:
“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark, and provides food for her family, and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” Proverbs 31:14-16
Looking closely at these verses, there are three basic things this “noble wife” does that are food-related: She acquires food from far away, she makes meals for her family, and she tends a produce garden.
If this is the picture of a good wife when it comes to food, I’m doing pretty well.
I often shop at grocery stores in the next town, and I make dinner on a pretty regular basis. I’m not so great with the gardening, because I have a tendency to kill things, but of course the verse only says that she plants, not that she harvests, so I think I have even that one down. I don’t get up while it’s still dark to make breakfast (except maybe in December), but I’m not so sure that verse 15 means that we have to.
In fact, I think we as women, have been misguided into believing that we must do all these things to be the perfect wife. We have held this passage up as some sort of Norman Rockwell painting in which a wife of noble character must be the type of woman who delivers a beautiful roast chicken to her sweet children and hardworking husband every night promptly at 6:00. Of course, you don’t often hear people talking about the fact that this passage describes a woman who had a job outside the home (v 24) and wore expensive clothes (v 22).
But even if those things were part of the conversation, it is an adventure in missing the point. This passage is not the standard against which we must measure ourselves. It’s a song of victory that elevates the seemingly mundane tasks of managing a household to the level of heroism.
My NASB study Bible says that the word “excellent” (translated as “noble character” in other versions) is an adjective “used in different contexts with reference to strength, ability, efficiency, wealth and valor.”
We are women of valor.
Do you hear that deep in your hearts today, dear friends?
If not, let me say it again. We are women of valor. What we are doing day in and day out, is noble, and worthy of praise.
Did you survive a grocery store trip with your kids in tow?
Did you get up to feed your baby in the middle of the night?
Did you make a meal for your family this week?
Did you provide food for someone outside your family who needed it?
Did you try to grow some of your own food this summer?
Did you share life with someone you care about over a plate of food?
Those things matter.
They matter a lot.
These battles that we have with food – struggling with food allergies or addictions, wrestling with decisions about what to buy with a limited grocery budget, being tugged between the desire to eat healthy and the desire to eat what we want – those battles are only complicated by feeling like we have to live up to some impossible standard.
The message of Proverbs 31 is not that you have to be a domestic goddess to serve the Lord. It’s that you should celebrate small victories, because life is hard and striving to serve our families is a holy calling.
This post is part of a 31-day series. A list of all the other posts in this series can be found here.