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I never really thought the Bible offered much practical advice about homemaking until I studied Proverbs 31.
There are so many life lessons in Proverbs 31:10-31, including how to be successful at work and maintain good relationships with family members or friends!
It’s easy to think that homemaking in today’s world is so different than it was thousands of years ago. Yet, the basics remain largely unchanged and can be seen in Proverbs 31:10-31 as an example for all women.
Over life of this site, we have examined each of the verses in Proverbs 31, in-depth (10-26), but today’s verse sums up the Proverbs 31 wife in one fell swoop!
An important note:
Before we take a good look at Proverbs 31:27, I want to remind you that Proverbs 31 is a masterpiece of biblical womanhood. It showcases the best and brightest moments in women’s lives, with an eye toward what we can all learn from them today- about perseverance, leadership abilities both personal and domestic; biblical wisdom through honest reflection on one’s own life circumstances as well as those around us…the list goes on!
It is NOT a list of what she does daily, and we are human, not perfect. Perfection is not achievable. Please do not look at this scripture and feel “less-than” or that you will never measure up. Instead, use it as a model to improve a bit in each area of your life.
Don’t Eat the Bread of Idleness and How to Rock Your To-Do List
As we “look well to the ways of our household”, please know that it’s OK to be busy. That’s just part of managing our home. Eating the bread of idleness is much different from rest. If we are wasting our time on social media, watching TV and clothes shopping when our houses are a disaster, then we need to get up and get back to looking well to the ways of our household.
Don’t get me wrong – rest is very important. It’s actually commanded by God, but avoiding burnout is extremely important, too. There should be a balance between managing your home (it is not an easy task!) and rest, without dropping everything to eat the bread of idleness and be lazy.
Our work at home is also important bring many blessings and benefits to us – and our families.
The Bread of Idleness
We have seen her attentiveness to every aspect of a woman of noble character’s life by caring for her husband, children, servants and even the poor. We’ve seen her wake early, stay up late and work by lamp, when necessary. We’ve watched her plant a vineyard, sew her own clothes, her family’s clothing, tapestries, and bedding. We’ve read about her selling goods to help with family expenses. As we learn more about this awe-worthy wife, we see that she strives for excellence in every one of her responsibilities!
The Proverbs 31 woman knew that her role as homemaker and wife was God ordained. She took this role seriously and she “slayed” it!
She didn’t idly sit by and watch soap operas (well, if they had TV back in biblical times) or let mount laundry grow. She was busy embracing her role as a wife of noble character. She did not “eat the bread of idleness”, but was busy managing her home, her family, and her responsibilities. She rocked in time management!
What does it mean to be idle? Idle means many different things. It can refer to a person who avoids work, is lazy and without purpose or effect; one might also think of an engine running slowly disconnected from its load or out of gear.
Idle and rest are not the same thing, as mentioned above.
When we feel that we can’t be idle – ever – we put ourselves into a state of exhaustion. We aren’t giving ourselves to our families and, most likely, not spending time with God.
The difference between idleness and rest lies in the word “disconnected”.
Idleness is disconnecting to our purpose to avoid the work GOD has called us to. Rest, however, is reconnecting to GOD’s purpose. Recharging ourselves, by spending time with those we love and our Heavenly Father.
God, Creator of the Universe, completed His work of Creation and rested on the seventh day. He commands us to do the same by observing the sabbath. God created us in His image and we, too, are commanded (not suggested) to rest.
How do we rest?
Sundays, in our house, is a day of rest. We go to church, then I cook some simple appetizers and we watch football (of course only during football season). It’s a time to worship, spend time with each other and rest.
Other ideas for rest might include:
- Taking a walk in God’s creation and marveling at His artistry.
- Taking a nap
- Doing something creative. God is the Master Creator, by doing something creative such as writing, Bible journaling, painting, or taking an art class are all wonderful ways to rest and connect with God, the Creator.
- Going on a picnic. Again, being in nature that our Father created and spending time together, not worrying about your to-do list, is the key factor here.
These are just a few ideas to help reconnect in our rest.
So that we’ve looked at the difference between idleness and rest, let’s unpack Proverbs 31:27, phrase by phrase.
“She looks well”
In Hebrew, this is translated as tsaphah (tsaw-faw’) “to look out or about, spy, keep watch”.
This phrase means that she is keeping her family as first priority. She doesn’t worry about the new wash basin that the neighbor purchased or what those crazy Smiths are doing around the block. She doesn’t spend hours on Aramaic Facebook (hehehe what would THAT look like? :D). Instead, she closely watches her home, her family and prioritizes their needs and her responsibilities.
“to the ways”
The Hebrew translation is haliykah (hal-ee-kaw’) “a walking; by implication, a procession or march, a caravan — company, going, walk, way”.
“of her household,”
In Hebrew bayith (bah’-yith) “a house (in the greatest variation of applications, especially family, etc.”
Here, we see what she is watching over: her family’s ways – their health, activities, knowledge of God, what they eat, how they rest. She is overseeing how they live their lives and ensuring that it is good and God honoring. She makes sure that they are eating their vegetables and brushing their teeth. She ensures that they have clean tunics and feel loved. As the wife who is worth more than rubies, she manages the home by taking care of her husband and family and watching over their lives.
“and does not eat the bread of idleness”
‘akal (aw-kal’) “to eat”
lechem (lekh’-em) “food (for man or beast), especially bread, or grain (for making it)”
`atsluwth (ats-looth’) “indolence — idleness.”
Whew! Ok, this Hebrew tongue twister is so powerful! The woman of noble character is not lazy or idle. She knows how to manage her time and seizes the opportunity to work and serve her family.
She is the one who makes sure that the home (and family) runs smoothly. It is because of her watchful eye and her care that her home is clean, organized, well-fed and honors God. She (YOU, dear friend) are irreplaceable!
If you struggle in this area, don’t fret. There are several small steps you can take to improve your time management. You can resist the urge to “eat the bread of idleness” and rock the role as wife and mom.
Here are my top tips for looking “well to the ways of her household” and not eating the “bread of idleness”.
Get Up a Bit Earlier
If you struggle with getting everything done in your already busy day, consider getting up a bit earlier. Just 30-60 minutes will give you the extra time to plan and organize your day and knock out some of your routines.
Reduce Screen Time
A July 2016 CNN report found that American adults spend an average of TEN HOURS per day in front of screens. While for many that includes work in front of a computer, much of it is staring at a smart phone or television. By reducing your screen time, you are gaining hours in your day. While I’m all for relaxing and watching a good TV show, don’t let screen time eat up all your productive daytime hours. If this area is a struggle for you. Consider taking one night per week off from screen time and instead use that time to catch up on home projects or cleaning or spend time with your family.
Many of us suffer from “analysis paralysis”. We have so much to do that we don’t know where to start so we zip from this activity to that without a real plan. This can cause us to eat the bread of idleness! I encourage you, if you don’t already have routines in place, to start an evening routine and work from there adding more, as necessary.
Second to meal planning, routines are the number one reason my house is in good order and maintains cleanliness.
Try Block Scheduling
With growing to-do lists that include everything from food shopping to cooking and from cleaning and organizing to home bill paying, there’s no wonder we bounce from task to task, yet accomplish so little, at times. If this sounds like you, consider using a block schedule. For example, use Tuesday afternoon (or after work) to run errands, Wednesday you might block an hour out for household paperwork (paying bills, filing, reading mail, etc.). By setting aside time to focus on one task or a group of related tasks, you are more likely to complete the items on your to-do list.
I set aside 30 minutes each day to clean a different area of my home, so that I keep up on it and don’t have to spend all day on a Saturday to clean.
Use a Planner or Calendar
This one seems obvious, right? But the truth is that few people use them for more than a place to enter meetings and appointments. Find a planner that you like and use it to block out time for related tasks as described above. For some of us, having it in writing is the catalyst we need to ensure that tasks are done. I love crossing items off my to-do list. I may have even written down tasks that I’ve completed after I’ve completed them just for the joy of crossing them off my list 🙂
I use a combination of Trello for my lists and a paper planner. The paper planners that I prefer, which are peppered with Bible verses, are the Paper Sunday planner , the Spiritual Seeds planner and the Hopefuel planner. I’m also a big fan of the Tools4Wisdom Hardcover planner.
I have always strived to a woman of noble character (thus, the name of this website), so I find it fascinating to see how she lived in her time. Though our homes may be different now than what hers would have been like then (not having electricity, for example, there are still many basic principles that apply.
How are you doing in this area? Do you eat the bread of idleness, or do you need to work on improving in this area? Tell me in the comments below or email and let me know what kind of resources you would like to help with this.
If you want to dig deeper, check out my book, The Complete Proverbs 31 Wife: A Verse-by-Verse Exploration of What it Means to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman in Today’s World.
Because He Lives,
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Sunday 12th of May 2019
My house is so disorganized and messy because no one cleans up after themselves unless I ask more than once. Chores are only done by me, unless I “twist arms”. I’m in Chronic pain in both my knees at 41 years old. Walking and standing are some of my struggles. Sometimes I don’t know where to begin, and when I’m “done” for the day it looks worse than when I started. ITs very frustrating and causes me to follow suit with eating the bread of idleness. Sometimes I’m exhausted just from pain and I have to give up being mom/wife for the day. I trust God will work it out for good and His glory somehow.
Sunday 10th of May 2020
Just found this article and your comment. I feel the same way as you! I am a much older Mom and have been eating the bread of idleness for too long. The home is also messy and disorganized. If it gets cleaned, it only lasts for a few days and cannot maintain it. I’m the worst manager of my home and kids...and I hurt. My body is breaking down little by little. And it does exhaust me when I think or stress over what I need to do and then I just give up. Praying for God’s strength and peace to help you and me to rise up, be healed in the Name of Jesus and finish well. God bless you.
Sunday 12th of May 2019
God will work it out, sister. But I would also have a heart to heart with your spouse and children and assign chores - no matter how old the children are. I'm praying for you!