She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:27-29)
It may not look like it a first glance, but we’ve got more army pictures here.
Looks well can also be translated keeps watch. And ways can also mean traveling company. So, when Lemuel’s mother said that this wife looks after the ways of her household, she was painting a picture of someone who guards her family even to the way they go and who they go with.
She doesn’t just meet physical needs—clothing and food. She’s on guard. She keeps watch—guarding them from evil as well. That’s not to say that nothing will touch them. We know that’s not true. Living in a broken world means that some of that brokenness is bound to touch us. But she is on guard to keep her family as safe as she can. Not eating the bread of idleness tells us that she doesn’t stop. She stays on guard.
And she gets what we all hope for! Her children rise up and call her blessed. Notice there’s no time frame given. Her children may be grown and have children of their own before she hears it! But she hears it.
Her husband, too, he praises her. And the word excellently is that same word used in the beginning. It means strength, efficiency and army. That word excellent is used of armies—when they are the best kind of army—courageous, noble, honorable and fighting for right. He recognizes what she’s done but more than that. He recognizes her character.
I read recently that modern conveniences have actually made more work for us—because they mean that more is expected from us all the time. We look at the things this wife does and it’s overwhelming because we imagine adding those same things to our already full schedule. In that time period those were the things that had to be done and a lot of what we do now just never even entered the picture—there wasn’t time for them.
This lady isn’t praised just for doing the things listed here. She’s praised more for her attitude and character. Look at some of what we’ve seen: she’s trustworthy, she does good and not evil, works with delight, helps the poor, strength and dignity are her clothing and kindness is on her tongue. Those are all things we can cultivate, too.
The stuff we do is important, but it’s who we are that makes us excellent.