The Virtuous Woman Runs a Business
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it;
and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
1. In verse 24 we have a passage that states plainly that the virtuous woman ran her own business.
2. This raises a thorny question among some Christian women, namely, should a mother work outside of the home?
3. While our present passage does not settle the issue with finality, it does shed some helpful light.
A. She manufactured products
1. She made her own fine linen.
a. She was not just a middle man or a merchant.
b. She was the manufacturer.
2. Fine linen was very expensive material.
a. Garments made of fine linen were luxury items.
b. They would be purchased by the wealthy at a high price.
c. Flax was used in making light, fine clothing—especially prized in hot regions.
d. The rich man in Luke 16:19 wore fine linen: “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.”
3. In Prov. 31:13 we are told that she personally went about seeking flax and worked it with her hands—turning the flax into fine linen.
a. Fine linen was made of the fibers from the flax plant.
b. It is not clear whether “seeking” it means that she sought to find a good deal from the merchants OR if she grew it herself.
c. The word translated “sought” can mean “to care for” – as in tending a garden and caring for it.
d. Either way, she went out of her way to cut down on the cost of the raw materials for manufacturing her products—either by growing her own flax or seeking far and wide for the best deal on flax. (cf. vs.14)
e. However she obtained the flax, Prov. 31:13 indicates that she “worked” the flax fibers with her hands and turned them into fine thread for her cloth.
4. She made “girdles.”
a. Girdles in the Bible were large belts or sashes that were used to “gird up” long flowing tunic-like garments.
b. Well made sashes were highly valued.
• II Sam. 18:11 – “And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.”
c. Virtually everyone needed sashes—so the market would be almost limitless—if her products were good.
5. Prov. 31:18 – The merchandise she made was of a good quality.
a. And she worked well into the night to assure that her work was of a good quality.
b. She may have been a little picky and persnickety… but for good reason.
c. If she failed to make a good quality product, they would not sell and her labors would be in vain.
B. She sold products
1. We are also told that she sold her products.
2. She was not only the manufacturer, but she was also the salesman.
a. She had to make it known in the community that she had products for sale.
b. She would have found it necessary to promote her products.
c. The sales department was a whole different part of her business—and the text states that she was the one who sold the goods.
3. This would take up more of her time.
a. She would have promoted them by word of mouth.
b. She may also have promoted her products at the local marketplace—and perhaps in nearby cities.
C. She delivered products to the merchants
1. Here is yet another side to her business that she did herself.
2. She delivered the products to the merchants – either the merchants at the marketplace, or the traveling merchant caravans, or the ship merchants at the seashore.
a. Ezek. 27:16 – “Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.”
3. She ran the delivery department… to the local market and perhaps to the ships.
4. She ran the entire business: locating raw materials, manufacturing, sales, and shipping. She did it all!
5. With all these responsibilities, she was one busy woman.
D. Other Business Endeavors
1. We are also told a little about what she did with her spare time.
a. Prov. 31:16 – She also bought real estate, planted a vineyard for grapes, and by implication, made juices and wine for her family.
b. Prov. 31:21 – She made clothing for her family.
c. Prov. 31:22 – She made tapestries for herself and her home, as well as fine clothing for herself.
d. Prov. 31:23 – Her husband was evidently dressed well too with the clothing she made for him; he stood out at the gate of the city.
2. Matthew Henry had a helpful comment on this passage: “Those families are likely to thrive that sell more than they buy.”
a. The virtuous woman made many products. She provided well first and foremost for her family.
b. But she had time, energy, and materials left over to make additional products to sell.
c. She was not spending more than they took in. She worked hard so they took in more than they spent.
1. The virtuous woman worked—and some of her work was outside of the home.
2. I realize that some Christian women have some strongly held views about the subject of women working outside the home.
3. Perhaps we could glean a few Biblical principles relating to the subject.
a. Titus 2:3-4 – This passage speaks about a young Christian woman has a husband and children. The text makes three statements:
• The godly wife is to love her husband (husband-lover)
• The godly wife is to love her children (child-lover).
• The godly wife is to take care of responsibilities at home. (a worker at home)
• The principle: her priority is her family.
b. Prov. 31 indicates that the virtuous woman did work.
• It appears that much of the work she did could have been done at home – as a cottage industry.
• However, some of her work took her outside of the home.
• The principle: The Bible does NOT forbid women with children from working.
c. These verses present Biblical principles—and these facts do not contradict one another. They complement one another.
d. We should all agree that the principles found in Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 are both Biblical and true.
4. This issue is really one of motivation and priorities.
a. The virtuous woman worked, but her motivation was not materialism or greed. It was not to keep up with the Joneses. It was not to embark on a career.
b. Her reason for working was to help meet the legitimate needs of her family.
c. And at the same time the virtuous woman fully understood that her real calling was not to the linen industry or the sash making business, but to her husband and children.
d. The virtuous woman was able to do both – run her business and run her household. This chapter does not condemn her for that—but praises her.
e. My advice to young mothers with children has always been to do everything you possibly can to stay at home with your kids while they are young and developing. That is the ideal.
f. But the ideal is not always possible for all families. Sometimes, even after cutting back to bare bones, there isn’t enough money to keep up with the bills.
g. Circumstances are different for every family and each family has to seek God’s will as to how to deal with their finances.
h. Money is a necessary part of life in this world. A family needs an income to survive.
i. But be sure to distinguish between needs and wants.
5. In the local church, we would do well to remember the virtuous woman.
a. Regardless of our personal convictions on the subject of women working outside the home, we should all agree that the Bible does not forbid it.
b. We should also all agree that a mother’s priority is to be her husband and children.
c. Women who work should not be condemned by those who are stay at home moms.
d. And stay at home moms should not be looked down upon by women who work outside the home.
e. Even when believers’ personal convictions differ, there should be unity and agreement concerning the Biblical principles.