We are continuing to look at how the woman described in Proverbs 31 can be used as an example for our own lives in the 21st century.
Firstly, let’s review what we learned in part five, when we looked at verse 19. A Proverbs 31 woman exhibits excellence in all she does. She doesn’t let distractions keep her from completing her tasks. She is dedicated and focused in order to complete her tasks with excellence.
Today we will look at Proverbs 31:20. Do you remember a time when someone helped you when you were in need? Do you remember the last time you helped someone else who was in need? Well, verse 20 says:
She opens her arms to the poor,
and extends her hands to the needy
The Proverbs 31 woman cares about others and shares her fortune with the poor and needy. She is generous and has a giving heart. On initial reading, this seems like a simple, straightforward verse. It’s just telling us to be generous to the poor and help the needy, right?
It actually tells us much more than this.
To understand this verse, we need to understand what is meant by the “poor and needy”. In this verse the word poor refers to those who are depressed in mind or circumstance; and needy refers to those who are destitute and in need of affection, attention or reassurance. This gives us a much broader view of this verse.
People can be spiritually or emotionally needy, and Proverbs 31 tells us that we should be concerned with all these people. Additionally, we need to keep in mind that in the midst of all the other tasks the Proverbs 31 woman is doing, she is still mindful and helpful to the poor and those in need. She is not too busy to be attentive.
So, how does this apply to every day life today? Here are some examples from my own life:
- A coworker shows up and it is apparent that she is not doing well. Do I put blinders on because I have a project due, or do I carve out some time to listen, pray and offer my help?
- A friend calls to have a chat. In the midst of the conversation, she mentions divorce and I realize that her marriage is in jeopardy. Do I keep cooking and disregard the comment with the intent of calling her and talking about it later at a more convenient time? Or do I stop cooking in order to listen, pray and offer support?
These are choices we all make each day: to help or to not help the needy. Sometimes it can be as simple as helping someone pick up their dropped groceries, or calling your neighbor when you notice their garage door is left open late at night.
I wish that I could say that I always make the right decision and allow those in need to interrupt me. But I am a task oriented person and one of my struggles is allowing someone in need to interrupt me. My first instinct is to defer until a more convenient time. I ask God every day to help me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit prompting me, and allow God to interrupt me to help those in need. I ask Him to focus me to accomplish His agenda and allow His agenda to be my agenda. I have been blessed many times by what initially seemed an interruption, and I have never missed an important deadline.
So what is my final thought today?
Proverbs 31 tells us to be compassionate to the poor – those who are depressed in mind, and/or circumstance; and to be compassionate to the needy – those in need of attention, affection or reassurance. When God calls us, we need to be willing to be interrupted in order to serve the poor and needy.