November 11, 2013

At Work

Devotion for the Week...

I'm continuing this week with my exploration of 'The Noble Wife' of Proverbs 31:1-10. Click here to read the full passage, here and here to read  the first two devotions of this series.

The theme this week is work and 10 of the 22 verses in this passage are about her work. The Bible is clear that we are all to be hard workers. See Colossians 3:23, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. The Proverbs 31 'Noble Wife' is simply a portrait of how that looks lived out day-to-day. So, what can we learn from her example?

The second part of verse 13 says she "works with eager hands." I think this means she enjoys the work she does, which is as much a matter of attitude as anything else. We can choose to grumble about the work we need to do or we can find ways to make unpleasant jobs more enjoyable and we can remember to thank God both for our work and for our ability to do it.

Verse 15 says, "She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants." Now, I really don't like getting up while it's still dark, but I find my entire day goes better is I get up early enough to shower and get dressed before I have to worry about getting the boys up and ready for school. This time of year, that means getting up before the sun rises.

I don't know what they ate for breakfast back then, but I can relate to this woman who made sure everyone had food to start the day off right. I find it interesting that though she had servants, she provided the breakfast herself rather than leaving it for the servants to do. I wonder if she enjoyed the cooking and passed less favourite tasks to the servants.

Verse 17 says, "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." She's a hard worker, not just putting in her hours or slacking off. This is an important point, since many people put much more effort into their hobbies (like quilting!) than they do their work.

Verse 18 says, "She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night." I like The Message rendition better. "She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day." Not many of us trade goods and bring the profit home at the end of the day. Even if you work retail, a busy day at the store doesn't mean you bring home more money (unless you own the store, of course!). Really knowing and understanding the value of your work is important. It's easier to tackle any job if we feel it has meaning in the bigger picture.

I see the first part of verse 13 as being linked with verses 19, 22 and 24. "She selects wool and flax...In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers...She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple...She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes." 

She started out by selecting good quality raw materials, the wool and flax, then she spun them into useable thread and then used that to make clothing for herself, blankets for their beds and items to sell. She followed through with each of the tasks, working until she had a finished product. While we don't have to spin our threads or even make all our own clothes, we can certainly learn a lesson from a woman who finishes what she starts. How many of us start projects that we never finish? Whether they are quilt projects, home improvement projects or employment related projects, we should be careful to finish what we start.

Verse 27 says "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." I think this is in contrast to those women who have nothing better to do than sit around gossiping about others or grumbling about all that is wrong with the world while ignoring the work that needs to be done. It's laziness, pure and simple, and the Proverbs 31 woman doesn't take part in it.

And finally, verse 31 says, "Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." I think this verse is a reminder that we need to recognize others when they have done a good job at something. We are quick to praise our children when they do well, let's also remember to praise friends and  co-workers for a job well done.

What is your attitude about work? What would others say about your work ethic? Do we line up with what is presented in God's word as the standard for our attitude and our work ethic?

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