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In reading Proverbs 31, I was struck by the number of financial lessons in the passage. What wisdom can you shed on the financial principles in that passage and how they apply to us today?
Aspiring to Proverbs 31
Dear Aspiring to Proverbs 31,
Thanks for your insights and question. I feel it is only appropriate to say that I have the privilege of being married to a wonderful woman that I often refer to as a "Proverbs 32 Woman"...meaning she has gone beyond the already high standards set in Proverbs 31! I have learned so much from watching her emulate these characteristics.
You are spot on correct that in Proverbs 31 we find a woman who is an excellent example of character, planning, and good stewardship. She worked hard, spent wisely, planned ahead, and gave generously. Let's break it down to answer your question of how her virtuous example can apply to our finances today.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. (v. 11)
Today, it can be common for wives (and husbands) to hide purchases or even bank accounts from their spouse. Spouses should be able to trust each other in every area, including finances. Trust is foundational to marriage and more valuable than money. Establish and maintain it with one another in order to be prosperous.
Industrious, Hard Working
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. (v13)
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household. (v15)
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. (v18)
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. (v24)
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (v27)
The way you earn your money is just as important as the way you spend your money. Colossians 3:23-24 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
That means that no matter what your work is - at home, on the assembly line, or in a corporate office - work hard. God created us to work and it is intended to be a blessing to us. Yet too many Christians are robbed of the joy of their work and see it only as a means to an end.
Proverbs 31 outlines the standard of a work ethic we should embody. There is monetary and spiritual value in the work you do and God has given you specific, unique gifts to use for His glory. You'll find fulfillment when your work and talents intersect...whether that work is in the home or outside the home.
Wise Shopper and Investor
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. (v14)
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. (v16)
Bargain hunting has been around since Bible times! The Proverbs 31 woman looked for the best deal and was patient before making any investments.
We should continue to do the same! Before you purchase an item, determine if it's a need or a want. Then pray about the decision, verify it fits in your budget, and ask if it would honor the Lord. Planning ahead and resisting the urge to make impulse buys is critically important to managing your finances well.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. (v20)
As busy as the Proverbs 31 woman is, she doesn't miss an opportunity for generosity and serving others. We should always be on the lookout for those who need help. Generosity is like a muscle - if you don't use it, it starts to atrophy. But the more you use it, the stronger it becomes and the more it's able to sustain.
If generosity isn't part of your regular life right now, take the first steps by just giving something. It doesn't have to be much, but get yourself into the habit. Then continue to grow in your generosity.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. (v21-22)
Just as we can't build a home without blueprints, we can't have solid financial structure without plans. A good and faithful steward is one who can live on a budget, a short-term financial plan. And when we look to the future to make note of eventual needs and find ways to meet them, we have a long-term plan.
We should all be prepared for the unexpected, especially financial surprises. It's not a question of "if" surprise expenses will arise, but "when". Count on them happening and prepare for when they do!
Start with at least $1,000 in an emergency savings account that you can't touch. Then work towards saving up to 12 months' of living expenses. It will take time to reach that goal, so be patient!
You should also create a retirement plan if you don't already have one. Most Americans don't save enough to retire; plan ahead now so you can be generous and stress-free later!
God's word advises us to plan for reasons beyond building a savings account or avoiding indulgence. Planning takes time and discipline but is a necessary ingredient to wise stewardship. We plan our grocery lists, our vacations, and our kids' sports schedules....so why not our finances too?
When we plan ahead, we have less stress and more margin in our lives. The margin and freedom we gain enable us to further God's work here on earth.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (v26)
A new survey from Varo Money found that when it comes to getting financial advice, Americans will turn to their mother (23%) over a professional financial advisor (13%) or their father (19%).
One of the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman is that she can give solid, biblical advice and wise instruction. This applies not only to women or mothers, to all of us. Romans 12:2 says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Resisting the temptation to conform to the world's way of spending, speaking, and acting will help you grow as a steward and discern what God's will is.
There are many more godly characteristics to learn from the Proverbs 31 woman. But many of them apply to our finances since money is an integral part of every person's life. May we learn from the Proverbs 31 woman to grow in strength and dignity, to plan and work hard, to be prepared so we too can laugh at the time to come.