For most women, reading Proverbs 31 and the never-ending list of female virtues recorded there probably produces a mental response along these lines: You’ve got to be kidding! She “plants a vineyard”? She provides food for her “maidens”? Who has maidens nowadays? Who does this lady think she is, making the rest of us look bad?
If you’ve reacted that way to this passage, then trust me, you’re not alone. I responded the same way when I first read this woman’s list of seemingly impossible feats. But I’ve come to believe that the person portrayed in these verses is a God-given model to lead us on the path to financial freedom and a wellbalanced life (which is why I’ve included the entire passage at the end of this introduction).
When I first read Proverbs 31 as a younger woman, I couldn’t relate at all to this person. I thought she was a machine, thoroughly unrealistic and irrelevant to our modern world. “She rises while it is still night”? Come on, who does that? Well…as I came to find out, most mothers of this world get up while it’s still dark outside. What mother hasn’t gently nudged her slumbering husband when the baby cries in the middle of the night, only to be met with increasingly full-mouthed, thunderous snores? (By the way, I think they fake this deep sleep. No one can be that comatose.)
I also couldn’t understand the part about considering a field and buying it. Who buys fields?
Surprise! Now I do. Okay, not quite fields, but income-producing real estate. After many mistakes, much consideration, years of education, and patient trust in God, I found that this method of investment gave me the freedom and resources to walk away from my former job and to search for more meaningful work—slowly and deliberately. And if you ever hope to be free financially, then just like the Proverbs 31 woman, you have to do more. More than just a savings plan. More than just burying your money in the sand and hoping it grows on its own.
In this irritatingly perfect woman, God has given us the perfect money model, and one that’s always current.
My own financial journey actually began on the day I realized, as a first-time mother, that I didn’t know anything about money. I was holding my newborn daughter in my arms, and the reality hit me that I didn’t have a choice to stay home from work and raise this baby girl myself. The issue wasn’t reaching my highest potential through the workplace or finding my destiny through a career. The issue was, plain and simple, money—we didn’t have enough. As a struggling young couple in a volatile industry (broadcasting), my husband and I hadn’t realized the numerous financial choices that actually had always been there for us.
Here’s the thing: I was supposed to be an expert in financial matters. At least I looked that way on paper. A few years after graduating with degrees in business and journalism, I’d landed a job hosting a national radio show called “Women Talk Business” on the Business Radio Network in Colorado Springs. I continued my broadcasting career in local television news in Virginia, where I covered many financial stories. But the school of hard knocks would be a much more capable teacher of what actually works and what doesn’t concerning money.
I wasn’t alone in my lack of financial know-how. In two decades of broadcasting, I’ve also met some of the brightest, toughest, and seemingly most enlightened women, many of whom don’t know how to balance their checkbooks. One day I was in the makeup room chatting with a female reporter about investing. (Yes, I actually did talk about this stuff with my coworkers, much to their discomfort.) This lady had a reputation as a street-wise investigative reporter, and I was stunned when her hard shell dissolved as she admitted she didn’t know anything about investing—though she quickly regained her composure by pretending she really didn’t care. I asked her how she ever planned to retire. Her answer was straight from the dark ages: “I plan to marry a rich man, of course.”
A job, any job, doesn’t guarantee financial success or freedom. Though television personalities seem to have really cool gigs, it’s still just a job and they’re still somebody’s employee, just like the rest of corporate America. You can be cut back, demoted, overworked, and many times underpaid. The bottom line: You’re not free to choose how you’ll spend your time, your greatest asset.
Let me pause to clarify here that I’ll never, ever be a get-rich-quick proponent who touts instant prosperity through the latest miracle product or financial strategy. I firmly believe each person’s financial design should be as individual as their fingerprints. Real estate investment isn’t for everyone. Stocks and bonds aren’t for everyone. Not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur.
But I do believe your financial management style is a reflection of your spiritual life and wellness.
Think about it: Those who approach finances with fear also tend to have a more anxious attitude toward all of life. Those who hold their money with a tightly clenched fist are rarely generous in relationships. Those who take the ostrich approach and bury their heads in the sand when it comes to finances are often not living realistically or authentically in other areas as well. I understand all this because I’ve worn all those shoes at one point or another.
I also understand the pain of realizing that you don’t have it all under control or have all the answers. For me that pain was most poignant when one of my child’s first words turned out to be “bye-bye.” Truly, some women are more fulfilled, not to mention sane, in the role of working mom. A great job can give your life purpose and direction. But for me, being separated from my children during the early years was heart-rending. Leaving them was like undergoing daily surgery; I felt cut off from my true purpose of just being a mom at that time.
That’s when I genuinely began my study of money. While I appreciated my education and broad book knowledge of business, what I was sold in school wasn’t providing me time with my children.
At first my search was confusing, but eventually things got clearer than they’d ever been. What I discovered and applied to my life gave me the power to walk away from my job. It gave me freedom. Certainly when the Bible references freedom, it’s usually in a spiritual context. But I believe it also applies to our daily lives in every area, including finances. As I was working up the courage to walk away from a position I’d held for fourteen years, I held on to this verse: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Finally, I walked away from being a wage slave and took hold of financial freedom. Whether you’re a struggling young couple (as we were), a single mom, or a woman nearing retirement age without a solid plan for your golden years, you too can grasp freedom through prayer, planning, and action on your part.
What I learned by studying the Proverbs 31 woman changed my life. Throughout history this woman has been modeled and maligned, denounced and praised. Is she too perfect? Or has God given us crucial clues to a financial and life plan that is ageless? Look again at God’s portrait of her in the lines printed below…then join me in the pages that follow as we explore the financial security and freedom we all long for.
A GOD-GIVEN MODEL
An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.