3 Lessons on Financial Stewardship from the Proverbs 31 Woman
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2014 7 Nov
Ladies, would you be surprised to know God has a lot to say to us specifically about finances? Nearly an entire chapter full, in fact. If you’ve been in church or around Christians for any length of time, you’ve probably heard plenty about the Proverbs 31 woman. She’s the epitome of motherhood and housewifery, and, it seems, financial management. Though most of us will never buy a field or turn flax into cloth (v. 13), by applying these three general principles described in Proverbs 31 verses 10-27, we can all achieve lasting financial improvement.
In regard to finances, a Proverbs 31 woman:
1. She Takes Initiative.
“She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant ship, bringing her food from afar” (vs. 13-14).
“She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants” (vs. 24)
It’s one thing to complain about our finances or long for more money. It’s another matter entirely to put our feet to action. Though women have come a long way since the suffrage movement, I’m often surprised by how many wives have removed themselves from the financial decision making process. They’ve assumed this is their husband’s responsibility, but these verses encourage women to play an active role in this arena. Ladies, how can we partner with our husbands if we’re uninvolved and uninformed?
Engaging in financial conversations with our spouse does two things: First, it keeps us abreast of monetary concerns, setbacks and goals. Second, it encourages a sense of ownership that in turn motivates us to make wise financial decisions.
Let me give you an example. My husband and I do everything according to a pre-determined budget. Though we created the spending plan as a team, we often alternate in regard to who manages the finances on a day-to-day basis. We’ve found, the one who consistently crunches the numbers is also the one who ends up being most concerned financially. I suppose it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind, thing.
Notice, also, the Proverbs 31 woman does something that was common at her time—spins wool and flax—but she also appears to do the unexpected, like the merchant ship bringing food from afar. In other words, she considers all options.
Translated to modern times, this could mean taking on occasional baby-sitting jobs, cleaning other people’s houses, or even walking the dog. Be creative. Brainstorm a list of all potential services you could offer or things you could sell and then try different things. If one avenue proves unsuccessful, try something else.
It also appears she evaluates prices and endeavors. Reading “she’s like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar,” reminds me of my grocery shopping endeavors ten years ago. Living in Southern California, with numerous close by, finding discounts came easy. Many stores doubled coupons and matched prices, allowing the organized customer to actually earn money while shopping.
A decade later, I don’t have the time and energy for such measures, but that doesn’t mean I shop casually. Nor does it mean I devote an entire Saturday to coupon-clipping. Rather, I spend one hour to review weekly ads, note the store with the best prices on items I use most, then plan our meals accordingly.
If a local store matches competitor’s prices, I make sure to shop there, bringing a list of sale items with prices from other establishments. By doing this, I can cut my weekly grocery bill in half. In addition, planning meals leads to less waste as doing so encourages me to only buy what I need and to actually use what I buy!
2. She’s Industrious and Proactive
“She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls” (vs. 15).
“She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes” (vs. 21)
From a practical standpoint, preparing breakfast, say eggs, pancakes, or oatmeal, is often much cheaper than serving our family boxed meals. I often make one large pot of oatmeal then reheat serving sized portions as needed. Pancakes can be made ahead then reheated in the toaster.
Yet, there’s more to industrious living than making a batch of breakfast foods. This verse encourages us to use our time wisely. Doing so helps us avoid expensive “time-saving” products and activities.
My biggest time zapper by far is Facebook. Though I might not spend a lot of time in one sitting on social media, at the end of the day, it adds up. What if I better utilized those five minutes here and there to:
- Wash and chop lettuce rather than buying pre-made salads?
- Look through grocery or department store adds?
- Pack lunches for myself, my daughter, and my husband so that our family spent less on eating out?
The list is endless, and though that’s not to say we don’t need down time, it’s always a good idea to honestly evaluate how we’re using the time we have.
The second principle we see in this verse is that of being proactive. By getting up early to plan the day, the Proverbs 31 woman is better able to envision and compensate for potential difficulties or setbacks encountered later.
Translating this to our finances, being proactive entails planning for future spending. Is the dishwasher getting old? Our car’s tires wearing thin? By setting aside a little money each month, we can avoid having to finance at high interest rates. In addition, the more time we have to plan ahead the better able we’ll be to seek out and locate the best deals.
Or on a smaller scale, by evaluating our week ahead, we can avoid unnecessary impulse spending. For example, say Tuesdays tend to be hectic, stealing time from dinner preparations and forcing our family to eat out. What if, knowing this, we popped something in the crockpot that morning or planned a quick and easy meal for that night? Perhaps we could keep bottled water, crackers, and fruit in the car to avoid buying fast food. If done consistently, our efforts can result in great savings.
3. She Invests Wisely
“She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard” (vs. 16).
We know intellectually how important it is to regularly plan financially for the future, but according to a recent poll cited on Fox Business, over a third of Americans aren’t actively saving for retirement, and many who are saving are doing so minimally. Many believe they don’t have the money to invest, but is this true or are we simply not using the money we have well?
According to an article in CNSNews, published in August of 2013, the average American will spend $4,580 on vacation travel in one summer. According to Forbes, we spend, on average, $1,000 a year eating out—for lunch alone.
Most often, we eat out because we assume we’re too busy to cook something at home. But does eating out really save you time? Pause to consider the time it takes to drive to the restaurant, wait to be seated, wait to order, wait for your food to cook, wait for your bill, pay, then go home. Most often, you’ll save a considerable amount of time by preparing food at home, and you’ll save a great deal of money in the process, money that could be used for investing.
That’s not to say eating out is a bad thing, but as with anything else, it should be done in moderation and only when one’s budget allows. If things are tight and we’re not saving, we need to consider making lifestyle adjustments.
For example, what if we cut our vacation spending in half and put the remaining funds into savings? What if we packed a lunch and used the money we once spent on eating out to purchase stocks or CDs? Using the figures provided above, we could have an additional $2,500 a year to invest!
Once we’ve determined to invest, like the Proverbs 31 woman, we should take care to invest wisely. This means researching various options and talking to others about them before we invest. It also means recognizing that the market can change at any time, which necessitates staying engaged in our financial endeavors.
For example, when the recession hit in 2008, Kansas City properties depreciated. When it came time for us to move and sell our home, we learned we would most likely be losing over $40,000. Unfortunately, the market we were moving to hadn’t been hit nearly as hard, and therefore, their housing prices had remained relatively stable. This mean we would be selling low and buying high, not the best financial move. Wanting to make an informed decision, we began to investigate our different options. In doing so, we read articles from financial and realty experts and spoke with individuals in the industry. After much research, we decided to rent out our home in Kansas City rather than selling it. As a result, when the market rebounded a few years later, we were able to sell it without a loss.
Though that period of investigation took time and energy, the money we saved made it well worth it.
Markets will change, unexpected expenditures will arise, and we’ll often feel our time and resources are limited. Though we’ll probably never manage our finances perfectly, using the principles laid out in Proverbs 31, we can begin to take control of our finances. Ultimately, it’s about surrendering ourselves and our spending to Christ. When we do that, we’ll begin to notice positive change, a change that can bring peace and security, regardless of the economic climate.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the midwest with her husband and their teenage daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Cafe Devotions, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and compilation projects, and currently writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers.
Publication date: November 7, 2014