Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“It’s interesting to me that there are six references to hands in Proverbs chapter 31: verse 13, verse 16, verse 19, verse 20, and verse 31. And we have specifically here in verses 13 and 19 a woman who is getting the raw ingredients of wool and flax and is working with her hands to spin those raw ingredients into thread, and then to make fabric, and then out of that fabric to make clothing.
As we see all those references to her hands (the work of her hands, the fruit of her hands, the profits of her hands depending on which translation you’re using), so I say, what is the significance of that? And then I begin to think about other biblical references to hands, and that will perhaps be a little insight to you in your own study of God’s Word.
Biblically, there’s a special significance to working with our hands, starting with the fact that God works with His hands. Psalm chapter eight tells us that the heavens are the work of His fingers (Psalm 8:3), and when that passage is quoted again in Hebrews one, it says, “The heavens are the works of your hands” (Hebrews 1:10). Psalm 8 tells us, “You have made man,” God has made man, “to have dominion over the works of your hands” (Psalm 8:6).
This earth is the work of God’s hands. Psalm 111 tells us the works of His hands are truth and justice (Psalm 111:7). And then, we know that Jesus worked with His hands. Growing up as the son of a carpenter, it’s certain that He did labor as a carpenter with His hands. He also used His hands to be a means of blessing to others. Matthew chapter 19: “He laid his hands on the children” (Matthew 19:15). Luke 24, as Jesus was getting ready after His resurrection to be ascended back into Heaven, the Scripture says, “He lifted up his hands and he blessed them” (Luke 24:50). He blessed His disciples.
The apostles worked with their hands. First Corinthians four, the apostle Paul said, “We labor, working with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). Acts chapter 20 tells us, again Paul is speaking to the elders at Ephesus. He said, “You yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me” (Acts 20:34).
Isn’t it interesting that the great apostle Paul who penned, I think, 13 books in the New Testament, was not above working with his hands? You see, working with our hands is the cure, the antidote, to laziness, to stealing, and to uselessness. And that’s why we read in Proverbs chapter 21 that lazy people won’t work with their hands. “The desire of the lazy man kills him,” Proverbs says, “because his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare” (Proverbs 21:25).
Do you see the difference there? Lazy people are always wanting to get. They want to be on the receiving end. They won’t work to give. They want to get. And ultimately, if they can’t get what they want, that can even cause them to turn to stealing out of laziness. But people who are hard workers are willing to work with their hands so that they can have something to give to others. That’s the heart of this virtuous woman.
So we read in 1 Thessalonians chapter four, “We urge you,” Paul says, “that you aspire to lead a quiet life and to work with your own hands, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside and that you may lack nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12).
Now, this is serious business because Paul’s not just saying this is something you ought to consider doing, to be hard at work with your hands in whatever tasks you have that require that. He goes on to say in 2 Thessalonians chapter three that there were some in that church who were idle—they wouldn’t work with their hands. And Paul said, “Look at our example! We did not eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but we worked with labor and toil, night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7–8, paraphrased).
“Do not be weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9, paraphrased). That’s a good word for mothers, isn’t it? He goes on to say, “If anyone does not obey our words, note that person, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Now, that’s not only something to model in your home, but it’s an important thing to teach your children. Your children need to learn how to work, and how to have a work-ethic, but also practically how to work.
Some of you found that when you got to be wives and mothers, you did not have the practical skills that you needed to know how to meet your family’s needs in terms of food and clothing and shopping and administering and organizing your home and cleaning. Some of these skills you had to learn. And let me say, if you still don’t know how to do those things, if you don’t have the skills, find a woman who does have those skills and ask her if she would help you learn.
You say, “I’d be so embarrassed to tell a woman, ‘I don’t know how to organize my house, or I don’t know how to clean my house, or I don’t know how to cook.’” Better to be embarrassed and go and find someone who will mentor and help you learn those skills, than to go through life not fulfilling, not able to fulfill, part of God’s calling for your life.
But mothers, make sure that your daughters are learning those skills so that they won’t get to be your age and have to admit that they don’t know how to fulfill those basic homemaking and home-keeping tasks.
Well, there are so many ways that a woman in the context of her home can use her hands. I made a list of some of those, and you will think of others: sewing and mending clothes, curtains, linens. Cleaning—cleaning dishes, cleaning clothing, cleaning children, cleaning toilets, cleaning floors, cleaning spills. And there’s always plenty to do with the hands, picking up after the family, cooking, baking, food preparation, shopping, crafts that are used to make your home beautiful: painting, stenciling, gardening, planting, weeding, tending the garden.
Working with your hands: flower arranging, needle work, writing notes of encouragement—that’s a way you can use your hands to minister grace to others. And by the way, start at home with those notes of encouragement. Some of you are great at thank you notes and notes of encouragement, but do you write your husband and your children notes of encouragement?
Use your hands! Bookkeeping, that may part of your task in your home. It’s something you can do with your hands to help minister grace to your family. Caring for sick children, braiding hair, trimming hair, all kinds of fixing hair, driving children to school, to piano lessons, to sports. This woman seeks wool and flax—she looks for the raw ingredients that she needs, and then she works willingly with her hands.
Let me ask you right now to stop and look at your hands. Just look at them. If you’re a Proverbs 31 woman, or becoming one, as we are committed to becoming together, your hands may not be model’s hands. You may not have perfectly manicured nails. But let me ask you this: Are they serving hands? Are they hands that you’re using to bless and to minister in practical ways to the needs of others?
If they are, then though they may not be beautiful hands, they’re hands like the Master’s. See, Christ’s hands were nailed to a cross. He endured that, out of love, out of the heart of a servant, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the plan of redemption.
Can I say that when you serve your family with your hands, when you work with your hands, when you clean and cook, whatever you do with your hands around your home, you’re doing it for the sake of the Gospel. You’re doing it so that your children may know what Jesus looks like, so they may be drawn to Him, so they may want to know Him.
There’s a wonderful word of encouragement in 2 Chronicles chapter 15. The prophet came to King Asa. Asa was a man who had a heart for God, and he was seeking to establish reform in the nations which desperately needed reforms, but it was hard work.
It would have been easy for Asa to get weary in the work and to give up. God sent a prophet to him to say what I want to say to you today. He said, “[But you, King Asa,] Be strong, and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!” (2 Chronicles 15:7).
Let me say it again. Let me say it to you. “But you, be strong, and do not let your hands be weak, for your work,” if it’s done as unto the Lord, “will be rewarded!”
It will be.”
This message blessed me so much today! I wanted to share it with all of you. Just Saturday at work my friend and I were talking about how great one of our candles smelled, it just smells CLEAN and we got into conversation about cleaning our homes. I told her she may think me weird but that I love to clean. In fact one of my favorite past times in spring is to open all of my windows, put on praise music and clean my house barefoot ( there is something about being barefoot I like). I truly find joy in working with my hands around our house and now I know why, because I am doing the work of the Lord and pleasing God. Maybe its just me, but that gets me excited.
I will also note that as I read this message a song that was running through my spirit is “Potters Hands” by Darlene Zschech. I LOVE these lyrics and always have, but after reading this the song captures me in a different light.
“Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted
into your perfect plan
You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you're drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray
Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
You gently call me into your presence guiding me by your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through your eyes
I'm captured by your Holy calling
set me apart, I know your drawing me to yourself
lead me Lord I pray”
I give my life to the Potters Hands to in turn pray that he will help me to use my own hands for my family, for service and for his kingdom! Have a blessed day friends :)