The Proverbs 31 woman keeps control of her environment; there is no need for "management by crisis." Her household is always efficiently managed and cared for, and her family's home life is always in balance under her supervision. This frees her husband and children, mentally and physically, to work and excel. Let's look at this verse in two parts.
"She looks well to how things go in her household ..."
Dake's calls the Proverbs 31 woman "prudent -- practical." 1 (see Notes) The literal application is the daily routine, household care, the physical elements of daily life. Certainly this does apply, for we know she is an excellent household manager, but in studying this woman it's evident that so much more is meant in this verse. Keeping in mind that her life's duty as a wife and mother is rooted in agape love, she "looks well" to how the members of her family are doing, emotionally and spiritually. She tends to the growth of her children, physically as well as in mind and spirit, keeping a close watch over their associations (friends, amusements) to see that nothing enters in that might be detrimental to their development as children of God. She is ever-aware of how her husband is faring in his life and work, and searches for ways in which she might be of help to him. Even the welfare of her household staff is important to her, for she knows that their presence in her home affects her family. If there is any "dis-ease" or disharmony in the life of a member of her household, she is there to give counsel (verse 26), to pray over the matter (verse 15), and to comfort and encourange (verse 12). She cares for her family's entire well-being -- spirit, soul and body -- and gives all of herself to this task.
"... and the bread of idleness [gossip, discontent and self-pity] she will not eat."
Dake's has a great footnote on this verse:
"Knowing that idleness leads to vice, she sees that everyone has his own work to perform, and his proper share in food, raiment and other necessities befitting such a household in society." 2 (see Notes)
In effectively caring for her home she is never idle; and in delegating duties she keeps her household members from being idle as well.
It's significant that this phrase is translated as "eating the bread of idleness." It implies that indulging oneself in idle activity such as gossip, discontent and self-pity is likened to verily ingesting it. It becomes more than just an external act; rather, it is one that penetrates and affects one's mind and spirit. Also noteworthy is the word "bread." Bread is what Jesus used to signify His body at the last supper: the bread of life. As bread gives physical sustenance, and as His bread gives life, the bread of self-indulgence, just as sin of any kind, brings disease to the soul and spirit. For a wife and mother who has the duty of her family's care assigned to her, it is akin to "folding her hands," which brings poverty (see Proverbs 6:10,11). The fruits of such idleness are spiritual, emotional and/or physical poverty for her family, manifested at the very least in some depriviation in the lives of her husband and children. Let's look at each one of the examples of idleness given in the Amplified translation:
Our tongues are a powerful weapon used by Satan to destroy us. In effect, we destroy ourselves in this way. There are many verses in the Bible that deal with this subject, especially in the Book of Proverbs and in Jesus' teachings in the four Gospels. A few come to mind that readily apply to gossip:
"And the tongue [is] a fire. The tongue is a world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth -- the cycle of man's nature -- being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna)." James 3:6
"But I tell you," (Jesus speaking), "on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, non-working) word they speak. For by your words you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced." Matthew 12:36,37
"Let your Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one." Matthew 5:37
The ninth commandment (Roman and Orthodox Catholics and Anglicans refer to it as the eighth), found in Deuteronomy 5:20, admonishes us:
"Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour." (King James version)
We all know that gossip is embellished as it moves along, even if it is initially based on truth. We really need only consider the summation Jesus gave of the Law and the prophets in Matthew 22:37-40:
"...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (intellect). This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depends all the Law and the prophets."
In a nutshell, if we wouldn't want others to gossip about us, then we shouldn't gossip about others. One who minds his own affairs earns the respect of others and is pleasing to God. Gossip establishes one's heart in a negative way against a neighbor or brother in Christ, for as the words go forth from our mouths, they circle back into our own ears and our own hearts. Proverbs 14:21 tells us that, "He who despises his neighbor sins [against God, his fellow man and himself] ..." James likened a man who could control his tongue to "a perfect man," wanting in nothing (see James 3:2).
If we are born again, and don't purposely tune out the still small voice, we will always know when we're engaging in something that grieves the Holy Spirit. Studying the four Gospels gives a powerful picture of the kind of man Jesus was as He walked on this earth in the flesh, and how He lived His life. That barometer can be ever-present for us: would Jesus say, do, or indulge in this? We know surely that He never gossiped; His words were always edifying and a blessing to others, never idle or hurtful.
It's important to note that gossip doesn't only include conversations with another person. It can also include TV talk shows, reality shows, websites or shock news stories that deal with others' misfortunes and allow us to peer inside their lives. The tabloids are also a good example. They all fill a carnal need to be busybodies, and they keep us from using the time spent watching or reading more wisely and productively. Also, the subject matter almost always aids in establishing our hearts in negative things.
We all know the sorts of things that we wouldn't read or watch if God were sitting in the room with us (which, if we're honest, is just about everything). We tell ourselves we need to be "informed" in order to have a clear picture of society and to equip ourselves to get along in it, but to a large extent, this is erroneous -- spiritually -- for what is going on in the world currently has always been out there in some form. The third chapter of 2 Timothy explains the behavior of mankind in the last days, and Jesus told us in Matthew 24:6,7 about the wars and natural disasters that would occur. All we are required to do is pray for righteousness to prevail and, in leading our lives as God would have us do, simply trust and find refuge under His wing. We don't need more information; we only need faith and protection as set forth in Psalm 91. Listening to and talking about bad reports is detrimental to our spirits. We can rise above it, keeping our words few, saying only what we know God would have to say about any given situation as set forth in His Word. As we learned of the Proverbs 31 woman in verse 26, we should speak only skillful and godly wisdom.
This malady saps a wife's energy as well as her husband's, which in turn makes both less effective in their daily lives. The book of Proverbs has many verses regarding a merry heart and kind words, and also teaches about the unrest caused by a quarrelsome wife, without qualifying whether or not it is warranted. If something is seriously wrong in one's life, the best and most effective solution is to go to God's Word, find out what He has to say about it, and then pray and thank Him for the answer. Hard discussion might give an initial "release" and a husband might give in to his wife's demands, but there will be resentment and, more than likely, a temporary or incomplete patch rather than a permanent cure for the problem. The habit of complaining renders only ill effects, and is an outward sign of inner lack of faith.
Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:5 that we are to be content with what we have. This doesn't mean we shouldn't desire better conditions in which to live, or something more for our children, for God "takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant" (see Psalm 35:27). Note, however, that the first part of this verse says, "Let those who favor my righteous cause and have pleasure in my uprightness shout for joy and be glad..." Our motivation must always be to please God and live according to His ways, not gratification of our own lusts, as James warns us in James 4:3, for that is asking "amiss." What the writer of Hebrews meant by "being content" is that, in growing into a full measure and stature of faith, we can be at rest in our current conditions, for we know that our prayers and steadfastness (or biblical patience) will bring about whatever change is necessary. In the meantime, we are to adapt ourselves to people and circumstances; to "bear and forbear." We can always ask God to right even minor irritations in our daily lives and then simply thank Him while we await His answer or manifestation. Again, after we've prayed, we are merely to thankfully await His answer, for continuing to complain stems from doubt, which negates, or at least slows up, an answer to prayer. Just as the father of the stricken boy in Mark 9:24, we can as God to "help thou mine unbelief" (KJV) as we continue to grow in faith.
Discontent almost always stems from a selfish, fleshly, "I want it now" attitude. When we hold fast to what we've asked of God in prayer, faithfully and without complaint until the answer comes to pass, we let "patience have full play and and do a thorough work (in us), so that (we) may be perfectly and fully developed (spiritually), lacking in nothing." James 1:4 When we can be at peace regardless of circumstances, the harmony in our lives will allow good things to more readily flow in and out, and whatever problems arise are more easily and quickly corrected. The key is standing steadfast with faith in God.
Here is what Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter 4, verses 6 through 9:
4:6 "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition [definite requests] with thanksgiving continue to make your wants known to God.
7 And God's peace [be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding, shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things -- fix your minds on them.
9 Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace -- of untroubled, undisturbed well-being -- will be with you."
Paul teaches us to put anger, jealousy, bitterness and resentment away from us (see Ephesians 4:31). Jesus Himself tells us to forgive seventy times seven (see Matthew 18;22) and to "turn the other cheek" (see Matthew 5:39). God teaches us to live peaceably not so that we can show God and ourselves how perfect we are in being able to control our tempers, or by being "martyrs" and thus earning a place in His heart, but that we might have harmony and lack of strife in our lives. When we guard our hearts against ill feelings, only asking God to heal and change any adversity, it keeps bad seeds from germinating into negative words or actions, for sin always begins in our thoughts. "Keep your heart with vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
We as Christians shouldn't be governed by our feelings or our flesh. It's difficult at times-- we're only human, living in a fallen world. But self-pity is especially dangerous because it's a pleasurable feeling -- a sort of "oasis" in the midst of unmanageable difficulty -- and the more one indulges in it, the more serious it can become. It can lead to depression, which might then cause a loss in health, and possibly serious deprivation in one's life and work. We just learned in Philippians 4:8 to think only on those things that are pure, lovely and worthy of praise. This is most important. Again, whatever problem is causing a need for self-pity, we need only ask God to help us find the answer, or pray to Him for needed change. "God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation] a very present and well-proved help in time of trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
Although my view on eschatology -- the study of end times -- doesn't agree with the Left Behind series, it's author, Dr. Tim LaHaye, has written a helpful book entitled How To Win Over Depression, published by Bantam Books. It gives excellent Christian guidance for those suffering from "the blues;" it is also great reading for any Christian in need of a fresh outlook or a more focused dedication to Christ. It clearly explains how to live a Christ-centered life as opposed to being a "carnal" Christian.
Self-pity is designed to steal so much from a person's life. It also comes in very subtle, unobvious, but no less potent forms. We actually partake of self-pity, or idleness, when we consistently indulge in things to make us "feel better" or escape. It might be a gluttonous diet of novels, movies or television; computer games or surfing the web; constant shopping and over-spending, particularly on credit cards, which puts one deeper in debt; or frequent venting of anger and frustration on our spouses and children. Indulging these compulsions hurts our spirits, and often aids in perpetuating the very circumstances from which we need relief. When we find the strength to be patient and in control during difficult times, two things will happen. First, our fleshly feelings will begin to "quiet down," for as it says in James 4:7, "...Stand firm against the devil; resist him and he will flee from you." Secondly, we will then begin to see more ease, more well-being, in our lives, which will eventually reduce and eliminate the need for harmful self-indulgence. Sin in various forms brings dis-ease in various forms. On the other hand, when we continually try to do and be only what God would have us do and be, it becomes easier, and our lives will eventually go more smoothly. We're then able to enjoy living in the here and now, with no need to "escape," experiencing quicker and more complete answers to our prayers.
The Amplified bible references a number of other related verses for study on Proverbs 31:27. I've outlined and expanded on them here: Further Study, v. 27