The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1). 

She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night (Proverbs 31:13–18). 

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future (Proverbs 31:24–25). 

She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27). 

All of these Proverbs share a common theme: they condemn laziness! Certain cultures, including America’s, increasingly embrace a lack of mental and physical exertion. Characteristic slothfulness, by and large, explains the differences between prosperous versus failing nations. Entitlement cultures—socialism cultures more specifically—especially portend personal slothfulness because industriousness is in no way rewarded. More about talk than the task, idleness becomes an idol. The end result of socialism is the creation of a climate that disenfranchises and disenables the perspicuous scriptural precept of industriousness. It is, therefore, critically important that the wives of political leaders (if they are not in political leadership themselves) model this attribute of godliness. 

The woman of Proverbs is capable, physically able, business smart, and prosperous. Notice the following passages in contrast to the “Miss/Mrs. Industrious” of Proverbs: 

At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention (1 Timothy 5:13). 

Now note and synthesize the above simple contrast with Titus 2:3-5: 

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behaviour, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonoured. 

Titus 2 is the New Testament (NT) parallel passage to Proverbs 31 in the Old Testament. Herein listed are similar virtues depicting a godly woman. One of the specific descriptors of a godly woman that appears in the shopping list of Titus 2:5 is worthy of special mention. Many English translations (as above in the NASB) state workers at home. The underlying Greek word in this phrase is oikourgos. This passage begs for particular attention because it is the basis of debate in the church today: how does one synthesize workers at home with the aforementioned Proverbs, wherein a most excellent wife (Proverbs 31:10) is often found in the marketplace?

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. Proverbs 31:13–18. 

A careful examination of the Greek word explains this moot issue. For the sake of English readability in the Titus passage, the preposition “at” is supplied in many English Bible translations but note that the preposition is not present in the original compound Greek word, oikourgos. The two roots of the compound are oikos, “home,” and ergon, “energy in the sense of deed, labour, work.” Ergon carries the idea of energy manifest in deed, labour, or work as is translated with that specific meaning in other numerous New Testament passages. One such Scripture is Ephesians 2:8b–9. To paraphrase Paul, relative to our salvation, it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of ergon, so that no one may boast. The English-supplied preposition at is an inapt, unsupportable addition in English translations given the absence of such in the underlying Greek construct. The literal Greek word, therefore, means “home-energy.” Why is this translation so important? The English translation workers at home tend to incorrectly connote where the woman is supposed to be. But oikourgos does not contain this geographic qualification. 

The Proverbs 31 passage serves to further support this understanding: the excellent wife is often in and engaged in the marketplace! Perhaps the more accurate (to the analogy of Scripture), better English-supplied preposition in the Titus passage for the sake of readability should be a preposition that serves to underscore that a godly woman does energetic deeds, labour, work for the home (cf. Genesis 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:11–15). How she goes about the prioritizing of her energy that is displayed in deeds, labour, and work for the home does not necessarily mean she works at home all day long. Again, given what Proverbs 31 states about her and what descriptors connote her excellence, this seems to be the better biblical understanding. 

Accordingly, is it not a bit legalistic to state emphatically that a wife should not work at all? 

More in accord with scriptural teaching is this question: is the highest priority of her industrious heart to build up her family? 

The latter is the heart issue that will govern the former. (You probably know of legalistic churches where the elder’s wife is forbidden to work. They are characteristically busybodies.) However a husband and a wife work out this conundrum, the point here to be underscored is that a godly woman is industrious and that industriousness is most importantly manifest first and foremost in the building up of her family. 

Author: Godfrey Gregg

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