… She worketh willingly with her hands.
Isn’t it amazing the powerful impact that one word in the Scriptures can have? As the virtuous woman is described in Proverbs 31, Scripture could have simply said that she works with her hands. But there is a very important word inserted in this passage – and that word is willingly. She worketh willingly with her hands.
We instantly get the picture of the virtuous woman’s heart. The work that she does is not just an external action. It initiates and results from a willing heart. How different any work is when it is done willingly, rather than out of duty or obligation. The end result may appear the same when the work is accomplished, but the journey along the way will be, oh, so very different. The willing heart joys in the journey. The obligated heart loses the joy.
A similar Scripture is found in 1 Peter 4:9: Use hospitality one to another without grudging. There is to be a love and outreaching to others, seeking to serve their needs, but look at the remainder of the verse – without grudging. You see, right actions could be taken to minister to others, but what was the condition of the heart? Was this a willing service – or was it done with grudging? The Greek word for grudging is gongusmos and is described as a private complaining. Perhaps the most private place of all that we complain is in our own heart. It is that murmuring that we do – perhaps to others, perhaps to our own selves – that directly affects the way that we serve.
A full reading of the Proverbs 31 woman reveals no murmuring and no complaining, but rather a willing heart. She worketh willingly with her hands.
But let’s look more closely at the word willingly. This word is far more than just saying, “OK, I’ll do that and I won’t complain!” The most common translation of this word is to take pleasure in; to delight in. In fact, a full study of the word will show that Proverbs 31 is the only place that the word is translated as willingly. It is most frequently translated as desire, delight, and pleasure. So it is very appropriate to say that the virtuous woman desires her work, delights in her work, and takes pleasure in her work. Isn’t that an interesting view of her heart!
And in what kind of work was she delighting? She was delighting in caring for her family. She was taking pleasure in doing good to her husband. She was delighting in looking well into the ways of her household. She was taking pleasure in seeing that they were fed well and clothed well. She was delighting in reaching out to those in need. No wonder she is described as such a strong woman! Her life is not about herself. It is about her Lord, and it is about others. And she delights in it!
Lord, we humbly ask that you renew our hearts, that they may be willing hearts – hearts that take pleasure in You and hearts that delight in serving You – hearts that work willingly – hearts that delight in serving our families and hearts that take pleasure in serving those in need.
A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
The above post was first printed in Dawning Light © 2003.