The Proverbs Woman: A “Model” for Capitalism
A free market (or capitalist) system rewards virtue and punishes vice. Unlike all other economic systems, capitalism does not thrive on greed but channels greed productively in a fallen world. It allows and encourages the God-given qualities necessary for one’s life. When left to operate on its own, without government interference, the market becomes a self-regulating and self-provisioning mechanism. The “Proverbs 31 woman” is a perfect example of how this plays out through a succession of liberty, prosperity, and charity.
Proverbs 31:16 says, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” The woman is able to do so only because of her God-given liberty—and dominion—that is established through a recognition of property rights. A free market system is guided by the principle that each individual life has a unique value that is not to be wasted. Its success is entirely dependent upon one’s freedom to act as a separate entity from society. It is driven by a loyalty to God and an ambition to improve one’s life.
In Proverbs 31:18, the woman toils and makes a profit: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” Each individual has the opportunity to put his or her ideas and dreams into practice, and to succeed or fail based on their own aspirations. The free market system offers the potential of profit as an incentive for pursuing one’s goals. As a result, people will work harder, smarter, and longer. They will assume more risks and endure more hardships than in any other type of economic system.
Consequently, prosperity is in turn a blessing: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (Psalm 128:1–2). Wealth is the reward of labor. Making money is not a vice, but a virtue, for the Bible says it is the “love of money” that is the root of all evil and not money itself.
In fact, success in one’s work is evidence of a well disciplined and ordered life. A good work ethic means unceasingly improving on one’s livelihood. This is pictured in Proverbs 22:29: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.” Notice that even in Proverbs 31:23 the woman’s family reaches high social status, which is spoken of as a good and Godly thing.
The logical order of the universe is the work of God, and as part of His plan we are to labor for His glory. Work is to be performed with an attitude of service to God, with a sense of duty and obligation. Colossians 3:23 teaches, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” In other words, we are to look upon our work as an act of worship to God.
The idea that work is good provides a theological basis for economics and a standard of growth. The biblical work ethic is based on a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. That ethic includes virtues such as hard work, frugality, reliability, diligence, punctuality, honesty, and self-reliance.
Therefore, to a Christian, the status quo and mediocrity can be seen as idleness and indicative of insufficient faith and lack of commitment to God. The Bible commands us to work: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Again, with true liberty there comes individual responsibility. Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
Returning to the Proverbs 31 woman, as a result of her Godly stewardship of property, the woman produces an abundance of wealth, thereby putting her in a position to help others. Proverbs 31:20 says, “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” She is able to accomplish this in at least three ways: by hiring the able-bodied for jobs in her vineyards, by giving directly to those incapable of working (such as orphans and the severely lame), and by means of her voluntary tithes.
Through the availability of jobs, the new workers are given the opportunities and means by which to provide for themselves and their families. And like the woman, they, too can choose to risk their earnings and compete for a larger share of the profits by purchasing their own vineyard, or by starting some other type of business. In turn, those who succeed (or win) will be providing more jobs and business opportunities for yet more people. This uninterrupted cycle of newly created wealth is what maintains a healthy economy and raises the standard of living for everyone. Isn’t that what we’re all after?