Working Wearily or Working Willingly?
by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, July 2016~Volume 16, Number 4
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 4
In Proverbs 31:13, we find that the Virtuous Woman seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. Several months ago I was reading this verse and then into the room bounded my little 9 year-old daughter. She is a picture of this verse actually, scurrying about the house with a smile, helping all who are in need, and even today she was hand sewing a little dog bed for the puppy. Just this week we had guests over for lunch and Lydia (age 9, remember) single-handedly made apple crisp from fresh apples and made homemade pizzas, even grinding the whole wheat flour. Though Lydia has just about mastered this verse, I still thought when I saw her walk into the room that I would take time to remind her of its importance lest she forget her industrious ways, but I was in for a surprise. Focusing on the word “work” in the verse, I told her how in many ways the virtuous woman was like Martha—a real servant with busy hands working and serving. I really thought I was doing a good job explaining until Lydia stopped me and said, “But Mom, Martha wasn’t working willingly.”
Wow! How did I miss the importance of that little word? I hardly even saw it there really. How did I overlook the significance of not only obeying the actions God desires in us, but the attitude also? God indeed desires hands that are working, and all women will have opportunities in all stages of their lives to work with their hands, but let us seek to embrace the willingly part.
But wait a minute….Lydia is only 9 years old….how does she know what willingly really means? Maybe it just means being actually willing to do the sometimes mundane, difficult, or repetitive tasks of serving or sewing rather than sitting idly on the couch? Does it necessarily imply a smile or a positive attitude? There are many lazy ladies who don’t want to work with their hands, and I was trying to warn Lydia to never fall into that trap or be among that disobedient crowd. But was there another disobedient crowd—a crowd I may at times be among—to be wary (or weary) of joining as well?
I love to see what a word means in Scripture by looking at how God used that same word throughout the Bible. I think that is the only fail-proof, trustworthy way since man is fallible but God is not. What an eye-opener it was to see how God uses that little word willingly (Hebrew chephets from chaphets) in His Word.
Remember Scripture telling us of the love Jonathan and David shared as friends, passing even the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26)? The same word willingly which the Lord uses in Proverbs 31 to show us how the virtuous woman works is used in 1 Samuel 19:2 to say that Jonathan delighted (chaphets) much in David. Am I supposed to actually delight in the work of my hands? Let us continue. In 2 Samuel 22, David speaks the words of a song to the Lord, praising Him for His deliverance, saying, “He [God] delivered me because he delighted [chaphets] in me.” We begin to get a picture of this word.
When the queen of Sheba visited Solomon and saw the beauty and wisdom of his kingdom and Solomon himself, she was awestruck (there was no more spirit in her) and she spoke, “blessed be the Lord which delighted [chaphets] in thee to set thee on his throne…” (2 Chronicles 9:8). We can clearly see that there is emerging the picture of a definite delight, desire, a liking, a pleasure associated with this word willingly which describes how we are to work with our hands if we want to follow the virtuous woman.
This word is used in Esther showing how the queen will be picked—the one the king delights (chaphets) in (Esther 2:14). In Job 13:13, we find it where Job desires (chaphets) to reason with God. It is also used in Micah 7:18 where Micah asks, “Who is a God like ours…Who pardons iniquity…..because He delighteth [chaphets] in mercy.” If how God delights in mercy is to be the way I work with my hands, then I have real reason to stop and reevaluate. Put another way, If God’s delight in mercy mirrored my delight in the work of my hands, there could be trouble for us in judgment. Praise the Lord, there is no trouble for us, as He actually delights in mercy! Lord, let me likewise delight in the work of my hands!
Don’t misunderstand me. I do work often with my hands. Sometimes they seem to never stop and there are occasions where a well-placed sigh out of my lips and a weary face seek to announce how much I work with my hands. But it is the willingly part that my eyes are now wide open to. And let us not confuse this as a Mary/Martha issue. It is different! I am glad and I dearly love to sit at the Saviour’s feet and to listen to Him, but here we are not addressing that. Here we are to be working with our hands—just as Martha was—but also willingly. Just as God delights in mercy or as the good man whose steps are ordered of the Lord delights in God’s way (Psalm 37:23), or as David delights to do God’s will (Psalm 40:8), or as the blessed man who fears the Lord delights greatly in God’s commandments (Psalm 112:1), we are to work willingly (or delight) in the work of our hands.
The Scripture is crystal clear. Lydia with all her 9 years of wisdom was 100 percent right—working willingly did imply a definite good attitude. It doesn’t mean the work itself has to be delightful, but the way in which the virtuous woman views it—as unto the Lord—is what brings the delight or the willingly attitude. I have met some lazy ladies who don’t want to work with their hands, but I have also met many who are working wearily with their hands (many thinking they are doing God a great service) and yet are not working willingly with their hands at all. Both are disobedient.
We must not only be willing to work;
we must work willingly.
As a fool hath no delight (chaphets) in understanding (Proverbs 18:2), so the woman not set on virtue hath no delight in the work of her hands—she doesn’t work willingly. Lord, let us delight in our work, rejoicing that we are able. Yes, God indeed desires hands that are working, but let us seek to work unto God, with both willing hearts and willing hands, for such does the virtuous woman.
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