The Proverbs 31 Family: Swanson Or Scripture?

As a kid, I grew up with Swanson, “TV” dinners.  Each microwaveable meal had four sections, each quarantined from the others by a wall of black, lifeless plastic.  Although the individual meals varied, you pretty much knew what you were getting: a “meat”, starch, vegetable and dessert.  While it was anyone’s guess as to whether the TV program or Swanson would induce sleep first, it was this safe, predictable quality that made them so popular with parents and kids alike.

Today, the lives of many Christians look a lot like Swanson, TV dinners.  Our lives are tidy and predictable, but a bit boring.

Take the challenge of figuring out which parents will work, and how much, in a family with children, for example.  The “meals” vary, but – so we think – there are only a few options to choose from:

  • Dad works full-time, Mom stays home with the kids.
  • Dad and Mom both work full-time, while the kids go to school and/or are cared for by a nanny or family members.
  • Dad works full-time, Mom works part-time and cares for the kids on her days at home.

There are variations on these basic paradigms, of course, and I’m not arguing for or against any of them here.

It’s easy, though, to look around and think that we have to choose from among the most obvious options.  When our family doesn’t fit into one of the culture’s models, it can be discouraging, or, guilt-inducing.  Alternatively, if we feel like our family “fits the mold”, we can become prideful and subtly judge others who may not.

This post is part of an ongoing series where I’m looking at Proverbs 31 and gleaning insights into men, women, children, work and how they relate.  It’s interesting to note that the idealized woman the chapter portrays is not what you’d expect in that culture.  This woman obviously spends a good deal of her time working: she produces, and then sells, various goods (see verses 19, 24 for example).  She also “considers a field and buys it” (verse 16), indicating a degree of business acumen and financial independence not commonly seen among women at that time.  This was no ordinary woman!

So, the issue of someone’s, or, a family’s (the passage shows she was married with children), relationship to work is not whether or not it fits into one of our culture’s models or “boxes.”  The issue is how well it meshes with the principles God sets up in scripture.  We’ll begin taking a look at some of those principles next time.

For now, I want to invite you to reflect with me on the following questions:

  • As you think about your family growing up, did it fit one of the models above?  How do you think that may influence your views on your/your family’s relationship to work now, and, in the future?
  • Regardless of whether or not your current relationship to work fits with one of those models, are you charitable in how you think towards others who don’t share your views?  Do you make scripture, rather than your convictions, the reference point?

Obviously, lots more can be said on this topic, so we’ll keep moving forward next time.

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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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