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She Extends Her Hands to the Needy: Living Out Proverbs 31:20

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She Extends Her Hands to the Needy

When we read through Proverbs 31, much of the attributes of this ideal woman are related to her managing her home, her finances and caring for her family and servants. Proverbs 31:20, however, shows us that she is not just home-centric, but loves her neighbor, as well. Proverbs 31:20 tells us that she opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Proverbs 11:24 states, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Solomon’s Proverbs are not only written about how someone should manage their personal money, but about how they should treat others, as well. Proverbs 11:24 is not so much telling us that the person who gives freely gains more, but about what happens to those who are stingy with their money and withhold unduly from those in need. As Proverbs 31 teaches us, this woman continues through life giving to the poor.

She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.

. – Proverbs 31:20 (ESV)

God has created women to be compassionate. We are the nurturers. Proverbs 31:20 tells us that Proverbs 31:20 teaches that a woman’s fulfillment in life can be seen when she is reaching out to those in need. It shows us her heart, what she truly cares about and how she spends her time. Proverbs 31:20 states, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

image of woman reaching her hand out with text Proverbs 31:20. She opens her arms to the poor & extends her hands to the needy. A deeper look at this verse and how to live it out in your life as a Christian.

Proverbs 28:27 says, “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Proverbs 14:31 tells us that whoever oppresses the poor is a sinner. Proverbs 19:17 shares, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 22:9 states, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” Proverbs 28:27 tells us that whoever gives to the poor will not want. Proverbs 14:31 reveals that those who oppress the poor are sinners.

In my post on Hands in the Bible, I shared about using our hands to hold on to things: our time, our money, our love. The Proverbs 31 woman is the opposite. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. She is not holding on tightly to what is rightfully hers.

Of course, her priority is to ensure that her husband, children, and home are cared for, but this wife of noble character also has a heart to serve others in need.

She may pray for others, but she is also diligent and takes action.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

– Proverbs 3:27-28 (ESV)

She knows that loving others is in the action, not the words or thoughts.

What I love about Proverbs 31:20 is the term “extend,” “stretch,” and “reach out.”

It shows that she is doing things that require action. She is not passive in extending her hands to the needy. She goes out of her way to volunteer and to serve others.

She is generous and “opens her arms to the poor” or less fortunate. Perhaps she is giving them food or monetary donations. Maybe she is coordinating a coat drive or toiletry drive. Maybe she is donating some of her personal belongings to the needy. Proverbs 19:17 tells us that “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord” Proverbs 22:9 shares, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” Proverbs 22:9

She is extending her hand to help. Think about it. When you extend your hand to another, you are reaching out and lifting them up.

I believe that may be what this Proverbs 31:20 woman is doing is lifting others up, not just financially but in practical ways.

image of arms wearing blue shirts reaching out to the center to join hands with text overlayShe opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20

Maybe she is teaching them a skill or praying with them. Perhaps she is assisting them with food or an invite to pick them up for church. But she goes out of her way to touch the lives of others.

She is sharing the fruits of her labor with those in need. Her charity does not end with a kind word or a promise to pray for others; it’s more than a passive activity. Her helping may involve physical giving – food, clothing, other goods, or it may include giving spiritual food to those who are poor in spirit, spiritually poor and needy, and who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own lives and problems that focus just on what needs to get accomplished for our homes and families. God commands us, however, to help others and to love our neighbors. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of verses which point to the importance of helping others.

What are some ways to extend your hand to the needy?

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,

    and he will repay him for his deed. – Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

– Deuteronomy 15:11 (ESV)

Think about your own family or circle of friends, perhaps your church community. Who comes to mind when you think of someone living out this verse? Is the woman who always provides a meal for the sick or shut-in? Or the one who tirelessly serves food at a local Soup Kitchen. Maybe it’s the one that collects coats for children in shelters or the one who fosters at-youth children in her home. Proverbs 31:20 is Proverbs 31:20 Proverb’s way of saying that “your deeds are the only words the needy hear. Your generosity shows them love and care.

There are thousands of ways that we can live out this verse in our lives and how you can extend your hands to the needy. While some require giving of our own financial or physical resources, many won’t cost anything but time and heart.

I encourage you today to look at your own life and examine how you are extending your hands to the needy. Are you giving only when it is convenient, or do you truly have the heart to help those less fortunate? What is God asking of you? Have you prayed to Him to reveal to you how He would have you serve?

Here are some suggestions for ministering to others in your community:

  •    Participate in Operation Shoebox
  •    Participate in or spearhead a clothing drive
  •    Host a garage sale and donate the profits to a ministry or local charitable organization
  •    Instead of selling unused or unwanted items in your home, seek out donation centers where your no longer wanted items would be a blessing to someone in need
  •    Prepare a meal for an elderly person in your home, bring it to them and sit with them while they eat it. Your companionship may do more for their spirit than the food could do for their bodies.
  •   Volunteer at a shelter or Soup Kitchen
  •   Consider fostering a child in your home (in the county where our church resides, there is only ONE foster family, but many children in need).
  •   Prepare a few “Blessing Bags” to keep in your car. Give them to the homeless that you encounter. You have no idea how much that simple gesture will impact another.
  • Get involved in a ministry with a mission to serve others.
  •   Host a small Bible study or even coffee time in your home
  •   In addition to your tithe, consider giving money to other ministries to support the needy. Church budgets are often tight and your extra few dollars could be a huge blessing to others. God will multiply your offering!

What other things can you do to share your love of Christ and extend your hands to the needy? Pray that God will shine a light where you can serve him and extend your hands to the needy.

For more ideas on serving others in your community and around the world, we recommend the following books:

The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society by Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Insider: Bringing the Kingdom of God into Your Everyday World (Living the Questions) by Jim Petersen and Mike Shamy

Interestingly enough, the below video is from Christian Mingle, but it is an interesting and quick listen.

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.”

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