Friday, July 1, 2011

Profitable and Prepared

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
I wanted to continue my series on the Proverbs 31 woman...remembering that I'm not necessarily supposed to do what she does but to notice her character, who she is which influences all she does. So far we have seen that she is noble, precious, eager, vigorous and strong (see links in passage above to view earlier posts.) Today I want to focus on one sentence. "She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night." Proverbs 31:18 (NIV)

Her trading is profitable. Recall from our earlier studies that the Proverbs 31 woman is quite the entrepreneur. She weaves wool and linen and sells her wares to merchant ships, then uses her profits to buy a field and plant a vineyard. She is a businesswoman, and a shrewd one who wants to make a profit. I am not much of a businesswoman, and in my work with my husband I bring in very little extra income for our family, but I view my role in our finances not so much by what I can bring in as what I can keep from going out. Over the last few years this skill has be severely tested. I still have a lot to learn. I am not, for example, very good at using coupons and that sort of thing. The main way I try to keep money in the coffers longer is by using our resources wisely. My favorite way to do this is to use our food as completely as possible. For example, I love using my crockpot to cook meat, and my husband likes his meat with lots of sauce. Usually after the meat is all gone there is still sauce left over, and for a while I didn't know what to do with it. Now I turn it into soup and get another meal (or two sometimes) out of it. It's simple! Sometimes I throw in some leftover vegetables and/or other meat, sometimes I mix it with a can of store-bought soup. Leftover mashed potatoes make a great thickening agent. Add some broth, milk, or water as needed for thinning. I just imagine the flavors, and guesstimate the thickness. These soups are usually so good that my husband tells me to write down the recipe. Sure - a little of this, a little of that, mix it all up until it tastes good. I love how it stretches the food budget and keeps the leftovers interesting, even for the kids.

That sort of profit is all well and good, but there is an extra layer of meaning here that we can't pass up. Remember that the Proverbs 31 woman is as precious as rubies, which is a picture of Wisdom.
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14 (NIV, emphasis mine)
Regardless of our financial footing, finding wisdom and understanding is where the Real profit lies.

photo by Daniel R. Blume via Flickr
 The second part of this sentence could mean that the Proverbs 31 woman is awake late in the evening doing her work - weaving or balancing her business books perhaps? However, it reminds me more of the story that Jesus told of ten virgins who were invited to participate in a wedding celebration. (Matthew 25:1-13) Five of them were wise and five were foolish. The foolish virgins ran out of oil to keep their lamps burning, so they weren't ready when the bridegroom came. They had to go looking for oil instead of being able to take part in the wedding celebration. The wise virgins brought their lamps and extra oil, so they were prepared for the extra wait and were ready to party when the bridegroom arrived. Jesus closes the parable by saying, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25:13, NIV) It's interesting that he told this parable just before his final days leading up to the crucifixion. I think this is the same message presented by the Proverbs 31 woman:

Be Wise, be prepared, don't let your lamp go out.


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