Homemaking 101: How Proverbs 31 Helps Us Understand the Value of a Homemaker

This is the first post in our Homemaking Secrets from Proverbs 31 series. In Homemaking 101, we will explore what homemaking is, who a homemaker is, and most importantly, what it means to be a virtuous woman.

A oil painting of a mother and child in front of a cottage.
By Nikolay Nikanorovich Dubovskoy – Public Domain

Whether you find her inspiring or intimidating, the Proverbs 31 woman is certainly impressive. She keeps a clean house, earns an income through her entrepreneurial skills, and has a well-respected husband and respectful children. Her clothes are classy and beautiful, and her children are well-dressed. She’s generous, kind, and a great cook. Some call her “The Ideal Woman,” but for many, it feels idealistic to even dream of achieving her level of perfection.

Do you find yourself cringing at the mere mention of this astonishing lady of the house? It could be because you’ve been reading Proverbs 31 as a “day in the life” of a superwoman of Biblical proportions: a classy gal who runs a thriving business, all the while sewing her own clothes and growing her own food and surviving on very little sleep (remember, she “rose before dawn” and her “candle went not out by night”!).

However, a more accurate—and realistic—understanding of this Old Testament chapter is to view it as a curated collection of lovely qualities that characterized the life of this virtuous woman over a lifetime. Rather than the Proverbs 31 woman and her remarkable achievements being a measuring stick for your homemaking skills – or lack thereof – this chapter of the Bible gives wise guidance from a well-seasoned older woman (King Lemuel’s mother). Though written thousands of years ago, Proverbs 31 holds timeless wisdom that is on point for modern homemakers.

As you read about the virtuous woman, imagine sitting at the kitchen table of a successful, older woman whose homemaking skills you admire, gleaning timeless wisdom from her as you share steaming mugs of tea and soul-deep conversation. While we can’t pull up a chair at the table of King Lemuel’s mother, fortunately for us, her Homemaking 101 class was recorded in the pages of Scripture, and the truths it holds are much more than just a handy list of tips and tricks for keeping a tidy house. This passage gets to the heart of what it means to be a homemaker and why it matters.

When this passage was originally penned in Hebrew, scholars tell us that it was written as an alphabetical list of qualities of a woman of virtue. Like the embroidery samplers your great-grandmother may have stitched, this “ABC of Womanhood” was an easy way for women to learn and remember the homemaking secrets that would give them a remarkable advantage in establishing and managing their homes with both confidence and delight.

In the real-life homemaking wisdom from Proverbs 31, we can source life-changing and timeless advice that has been helping homemakers for thousands of years. There’s much to learn from the virtuous woman, and in future posts, we will explore many of the homemaking skills she teaches us. But first, let’s explore what it truly means to be a virtuous woman and what it means to be a homemaker.

Homemaking 101: What is a Virtuous Woman?

A virtuous person is someone who possesses the quality of virtue. In the KJV, the adjective “virtuous” is used only three times in the Old Testament: once to describe Ruth (Ruth 3:11), and twice in Proverbs (Proverbs 12:4 “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” and in Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”). The adverb “virtuously” also appears once at the end of Proverbs 31.

However, the Hebrew word translated as “virtuous” is used 243 times in the Old Testament! It is translated into several different English words and carries the meaning of strength and valor, specifically military strength. In other words, this Proverbs 31 woman is a force to be reckoned with! Our modern definition of virtuous still holds the same idea of strength: The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines virtuous as “having or exhibiting virtue; moral excellence; chaste; potent or efficacious.” And the word potent is defined as “having or wielding force, authority, or influence; powerful.”

Some synonyms of virtue include value, distinction, grace, and excellence. No wonder a woman who can be described as virtuous has value “far above rubies”! Being compared to a ruby is no small compliment. Rubies are both beautiful and rare. In fact, in researching rubies, I discovered that “…rubies are the most expensive colored gemstone on the planet. Besides the legendary history and reputation of rubies… they’re incredibly rare stones. In fact, much rarer than natural diamonds. Maybe that’s one reason why ruby gemstones are often set alongside diamonds. …Rubies are often associated with wealth, power, and royalty.” Source

A woman wears a ruby ring. Rubies remind us of the worth of a homemaker.

So when King Lemuel’s mother describes the virtuous woman, she describes a woman of rare strength, influence, and skill—a woman whose character and qualities exceed those of one of the most valuable jewels on earth. And where do we find a woman worthy of this comparison? She is not in the majestic halls of some palace or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She is loving, serving, and creating in her own home. She is a homemaker.

Homemaking 101: What is Homemaking and Who is a Homemaker?

Our modern society doesn’t place a lot of value on being a homemaker. Ask Google to define what a homemaker is, and you’ll likely get the same blah definition I did: “A homemaker is a person who spends their time looking after a home and doing housework rather than being employed outside the home (typically applied to a woman).”

Girl Sweeping, William McGregor Paxton, 1912

While it’s true that a homemaker looks after her home and does housework, that is not the essence of a homemaker. Google’s definition conflates “housekeeper” with “homemaker,” but they are not the same thing. One can be hired; the other is beyond priceless.

A homemaker is a woman who skillfully cultivates a welcoming and orderly home where people are loved, nurtured, and strengthened. She pours her heart into her home because she understands that where there is no heart, our living spaces are just dwellings, not homes. She’s called a homemaker because she makes a home where life is created, nurtured, and sustained.

A homemaker may stay home full-time or work outside the home. She may be married or single. She may be a mother with young children, an empty nester, or she may have no children. She may live in an RV or a sprawling mansion. She may enjoy tasks like sewing, baking, and cleaning, or she may not.

Whatever her natural giftings, talents, and enjoyments are, she is a maker, a creator, and a restorer. Every day, a homemaker brings order out of chaos, adding light, warmth, and beauty where there was once only a dark, cold emptiness. She skillfully takes a house and turns it into a home. And, in the words of Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Home is the nicest word there is.” And, I would add, a house made into a home is the nicest place to be.

As a Christian homemaker artfully turns a dwelling, no matter the size, into a home, she takes her cues from her Creator, who made a home for His creation (Genesis 1), makes His home with those who trust in Him (John 14:23), and is right now preparing an eternal home where He will eternally welcome His people (John 14:1-3).

I love how this poem says it so beautifully:

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there
Which, seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.

Home, home, sweet, sweet home
There’s no place like home
There’s no place like home.

John Howard Payne, 1823

Homemaking 101: Becoming a Virtuous Homemaker

If you’ve ever felt intimidated by the virtuous woman, I hope this Homemaking 101 overview will help you read Proverbs 31 with a fresh perspective. Rather than an unreachable standard, the virtuous woman is a beautiful example of the priceless worth and value that God places on the role of a homemaker.

Be encouraged! You can pursue a life of excellence and make your home – wherever it is and whoever lives in it – a place of beauty, refreshment, and love. A place that nurtures and restores life. A place that reflects the goodness of God to a world that desperately needs to come home to Him.

Signature of Author

Part two of this series will explore in-depth how a homemaker nourishes relationships. There’s so much to learn, so pour yourself another cup of tea, and join me for part 2 of this series. Coming soon!

This post is dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law, Esther (1936-2024), who was a woman of rare beauty, strength, and grace. Her priceless legacy lives on through the many lives she touched during her lifetime. I am blessed to have had her in my life as an example of a real-life Proverbs 31 woman.

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  1. Thank you Cara for this lovely tribute to Mom.
    Love you all and praying for strength in the midst of the empty place there. I find myself forgetting she is gone until I want to talk to her, send her a message or pray for her — such a mixture of eternal hope, joy and loss.

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