The bread of idleness

Proverbs 31:27
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

As I know many can testify, it is hard being a single parent. Of course, my late wife wasn’t about to let being single stop her. Not only did she have her own son to deal with, she also opened her home to foster children, and after we married, we even considered adoption, too. At one point, we had eight children living in our household, ranging from four months to twelve years of age – two mine, one hers, and five whom we had taken in. For all the seeming chaos, my beloved wife was on top of it all, scheduling visits with birth parents and doctors, laying out meal plans, shopping for groceries with her mother, and dealing with the myriad small and large crises that face little children – all while continuing to work full-time as a university professor. My dear wife certainly was not idle! After she passed away, when I was asked if I wanted a particular verse from Scripture on her headstone, I directed them to write “Proverbs 31:25-31.” It described her to a T.

Of course, today’s verse – Proverbs 31:27 – isn’t just about managing a household. Nearly any well-organized parent can run a household with a minimum of fuss and clutter. (I will admit that I am not such a parent, and I thank God my lovely wife was.) This verse is also about spiritual management and direction.

The first part says “She watches over the ways of her household.” The Hebrew is literally that she “leans into” – as in someone who is looking over someone else’s shoulder, someone who is carefully observing. And “the ways” is literally “the pathways” or “the walk” of her household. In short, the virtuous wife (and any good Christian parent!) watches closely over how and where the family is going.

We are also told that she “does not eat the bread of idleness.” We could assume this refers to the good wife baking or buying her own bread, and that would be a simple and superficial way to look at it. However, we all ought to remember that “bread” is rarely mentioned in the Bible in a purely literal sense. When Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we can be sure that He was not just speaking about physical nourishment.

Deuteronomy 8:3
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”

As Moses reminds us, physical bread alone is not sufficient: we need spiritual nourishment through the Word of God. People who are unwilling to seek God’s Word will try to live off of whatever words come their way, whether they come from an indolent slacker, a self-professed “teacher,” or even a friend. We often use the term “armchair general” to refer to someone who is doing no work but tries to tell others how they ought to be doing theirs. That would certainly be another place to get some “bread of idleness.” You see, the bread of idleness has no life in it, no true experience or wisdom. It may taste good, but in the grand scheme of things it is empty, void, worthless. But if she does not eat the bread of idleness, what does she eat?

We have the Bible in our hands – the very Word of God – and it provides true life. As Peter said to his Teacher and Savior, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Jesus IS the Word, the living and creative and vibrant Word of God through whom all things were created. (John 1:3) We need look no further than Jesus and His gospel for the bread we need. The virtuous wife and the faithful Christian seek sustenance and spiritual life through the only One who can give life.

If we get lazy and allow idle words to influence us, if we turn from the Word of God to the philosophies of men, then we will not have the abundant life God wants for us. In a very real sense, if we consume the “bread of idleness,” we will die of spiritual starvation. But if Jesus is the Word by which we guide the lives of our families, then we can be sure they will have eternal life with God. Therefore, as we watch over our households, let there be but one kind of bread at our table: Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Bread of Life. (John 6:48) That is the only bread we truly need.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the daily bread You alone provide – not just the bread on our tables but also the Bread of Life which is Christ Jesus our Lord. Today, dear Lord, watch over us and guide us as we watch over and guide our families. Be the Word we speak and the life we bring to our families and the world. You are our God Almighty, our Rock, our Redeemer, and our ever-faithful Lord. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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