Hmm. This is the third time we’ve considered God’s calling to be generous (you wisely chose Proverbs 16:19 and Proverbs 31:8 as favorites too).
Seems like God is trying to get our attention. Self improvement has some value, but improving the lives of others? Priceless.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:20
She opens… Proverbs 31:20
This beautiful woman is Hannah, one of the many guides at Nazareth Village in Israel. Her hands are always busy. Spinning, weaving, sewing, cooking, gardening, serving. A Proverbs 31 sister? You bet.
Her hands are not only active; they are also open. In Hebrew, paras means “to spread.” So, she “stretcheth out her hand” (ASV). Beyond her own needs. Beyond her family’s needs. Beyond herself.
“She is generous” (GNT) with her time, her skills, her resources. I so want to be this woman, but the truth is, I’m not there yet. Maybe I’m not the only one.
What if we started each day praying, “What can I do for You, Lord?” or “What can I do for others?”, instead of wondering, “What’s on my to-do list?”
…her arms… Proverbs 31:20
Since I’m a serious hugger, I picture a woman who reaches out “to embrace” (CJB) others, to wrap her arms around them and hold them close.
But in truth, the Hebrew word here, kaph, means the “hollow or flat of the hand.” So, she “stretches her palm” (EXB) is a more literal translation. If our palms are open, we’re saying to the people around us, “Here you go. Please take what you need.”
This kind of woman “always gives” (ERV) to those whose wallets are empty, and continually “welcomes” (NCV) those who feel unwelcome.
A Proverbs 31 woman follows in the footsteps of Jesus. She doesn’t just say, “I love you” with her words. She also says it with her actions.
…to the poor… Proverbs 31:20
She opens her hands to the ani—the “poor, afflicted, humble.” Not to her friends, her peers, her coworkers, her neighbors that have what she has, but to the people who are “oppressed” (GW) and “in need” (MSG).
A true (and not at all pretty) confession: I have a close friend I’ve always enjoyed shopping for. I’d buy little things all through the year, then send them off at Christmastime, hoping she’d have fun opening each gift, chosen especially for her.
Year after year, she kindly returned the favor, sending me an equally thoughtful present. Until the Christmas when all I received was a card with a note, saying, “We gave a donation to this wonderful charity in your name.”
My first response? Humph. No gift? (Told you this wasn’t pretty.)
I kept looking at the donor card, trying to get excited about the idea. Finally, the Lord opened my eyes.
Did I need yet another present? I did not.
Did this impoverished family need a sheep? They did.
My friend gave me the greatest gift of all: the joy of opening my hands to meet the needs of others.
…and… Proverbs 31:20
The rest of the verse is a parallel of the first half, a common practice in Hebrew poetry. So, instead of adding a second step, this is more about saying “yes” (AMP) or “indeed” (OJB) or “yea” (YLT) to the truth God has already revealed.
Once more with feeling, she…
…extends… Proverbs 31:20
She doesn’t merely open her hands; the Hebrew word shalach tell us she “sends” (EXB) them forth. We get the sense she’s traveling beyond her borders, whether that means walking out her front door or pulling out her passport.
The truth? No one visits a homeless shelter and leaves unaffected. No one takes a mission trip and returns home unchanged.
…her hands… Proverbs 31:20
Not just her palms this time, but her yad—in Hebrew, her whole “hand.” More to the point, her “helping hand” (NLT), her “filled hands” (AMP).
How can she give away what she has, emptying her hands? Because she trusts God. He will provide for her needs. He will fill her hands.
Look at the promise Jesus makes: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
Giving comes first. It’s an act of faith. Receiving comes later. It’s an act of trust.
…to the needy. Proverbs 31:20
She not only helps those who are “poor” (CEV) and “destitute” (JUB), who require food, clothing, shelter, care. She serves all “those in need” (VOICE), “whether in body, mind, or spirit” (AMP).
We don’t have to be wealthy to have open hands. We just need open hearts.
Lord, help us discern the needs of others, then meet them—with hugs, with prayers, with food, with clothing, with Your truth, with Your love. You’ve given us more than enough, Jesus. Help us share it with complete joy.
Now it’s your turn
- What’s the most effective way you’ve found to help those in need?
Bless you for taking a moment to share. We learn from one another when we’re open and honest.
Your free Printable of Proverbs 31:20 is ready to download, and all our colorful weekly Proverbs to date await you on Pinterest!
By the way, when we finished our time visiting Nazareth Village in Israel, Hannah opened her arms and asked me for a hug. So. Kind. May I extend one to you as well, beloved?
Your sister, Liz
P.S. Want to see a Proverbs 31 woman in action? New York Times best-selling author Lysa TerKeurst is using every penny she earns from her brand new book, The Best Yes, to help others in need around the world. Just. Wow.
My take on The Best Yet
Wise, warm, honest, funny, and do-it-now practical, this guide to making smart decisions is just the thing for those of us who have too much on our calendars and need help to stop the madness. Lysa has clearly lived and learned what works and what doesn’t. Her stories, examples, and advice all ring true, and wisdom pours from every page.
It was so good to get to sit under your teaching again at Women of Faith and then a couple days later I saw you on Lysa’s webcast. I so appreciate your honesty, knowledge and humor. This post is so good. I loved two things. One was the prayer to start each day, what can I do for you/others! I’m going to start that tomorrow morning. The other was about your honesty with your friend’s gift. So many of us would think the same thing but just not say it! I love the idea she had however and I think I will copy that for those on my list that really don’t need anything. Awesome idea!
I am reading Lysa’s book now. I’m so thankful to be blessed with so many women Bible teachers these days. You all are such an encouragement to me. Thank you for serving The Lord the way you do.
Wow, Lawan. That’s a LOT of Liz in one week. :>) I’m honored to share the things God is teaching me, and really appreciate your encouragement. May our morning prayers to serve God first and foremost be answered!
I am retired and so I volunteer. But I spend more time helping animals than humans. I love all animals and feel that often people discount them. So I volunteer at the Humane Society where i live. I also feed three colonies of feral and abandoned cats. As a friend of mine put it when referring to these cats – they are definitely the “least of these”. Loved the pictures as well as the candid thoughts that went with this wonderful sharing.
It’s wonderful to care for God’s creatures. I’ve been a cat lover the whole of my life, and had to bid good-bye to my darling Jack this week. SO HARD. He had FIV–the feline version of HIV–and went downhill quickly. Bless you for feeding and loving “the least of these” among animals.
I absolutely loved this. I always need the encouragement to open my hand! I get sucked into my culture and get selfish and Greedy and it grieves me. But only for awhile and then I need a reminder again. Thank you!
Right there with you, Dalyn. A constant battle. Bless you for fighting the good fight.
This verse confirmed that volunteering at homeless shelter is where I’m called. Sometimes extending my arm to give a hug is what a women may need. One lady talked about wanting to die this week. I pray my words encouraged her. I’m not qualified but available. Please pray for words and actions that share God’s love.
God bless you, Cheryl, for sharing your life at the shelter and sharing your story with us. Yes, sometimes hugs can speak more effectively than words, communicating love and compassion. Praying for you RIGHT NOW.
I loved this, Liz! Thank you for this study! I am going to encourage the ladies at our church to start each morning praying, ‘Lord, what can I do for you and others today.’ We don’t have to look very far. It’s as simple as a smile! You are an awesome lady!
“It’s as simple as a smile.” Might need to write that one on the doorpost of my home and the tablet of my heart, Carol! SO good.
Wonderful post Liz! Wish I could have gone to Nazareth Village when I went to Israel a few years ago. Looks wonderful!
Thanks for the reminder, that we are to serve the Lord and others…the needs are great just about everywhere. I did ‘find’ my two new ‘grand kids’ at Compassion International! I’m so excited to be able to share what the Lord has given me with this young girl and young man from Uganda. What a great organization that gives us the opportunity to bless a child for about $1.00 a day! I am writing letters to both and praying for them! I think I just may be more blessed than they are. 😉
Blessings to you!
So well done, Susan. The cost is low, yet the investment is HIGH. May your sponsored children hear the love behind your words on the page.
This came through this morning as I’m getting ready to prepare a breakfast for 125+ people from the neighborhood around our inner city church. This is done the 3rd Saturday of each month. Our church family is small and getting older each month. Sometimes I wonder if the time and effort are worth it, but then I’m reminded that this is what our Lord expects from us. This proverb was perfect for me to start the day. Thanks, again, Liz. I’m hoping to get to another Women of Faith festival soon. Love your books, and suggest them to many young Christian women.
One of the most unforgettable trips that I have ever taken was to the Holy Land. Reading the Bible was never the same after that. Thanks for this study. Love, Peace, and Joy to you, Blanche.
Hooray, Blanche! You are DOING the gospel, and so beautifully. Wish I could sit at that breakfast table and see the faces of those you are serving.
I loved the part about praying each morning and asking the Lord what I can do for Him? It is stepping out of my selfish heart wanting more time for me and seeing the world around me. My passion is sewing so through my church I have gotten involved making pillowases for sick children in hospitals. What joy comes from knowing the smiles that will come from such a small gesture. It redirects my thoughts to a better place rather than focusing on me. Thanks once again for speaking God’s truth into my life!!!
You service is not a small gesture at all, Linda. It’s a necessary one, and a loving one. The feel and scent of a fresh pillowcase rubbing against my cheek each night is a tiny slice of heaven. What a blessing you are to others!
I love what everyone else has said. You’re all doing wonderful things. I also am an animal lover and I think about sparrows. God loves all His creatures so helping animals is definitely a good thing. Whether we are helping on a grand scale or just a single person doesn’t matter. As long as we’re helping. A lot of people think “i cant save everyone so i won’t help anyone” and that’s the wrong attitude. If each person gives a little, it can make a huge difference. My husband and I don’t celebrate December 25 for two reasons. First, we feel Christ should be celebrated every day not just once a year. Second, we want our son to know it’s not about presents. We do however fill shoeboxes for operation Christmas child. My son loves helping us choose things to include and he is definitely learning. I love the idea of “giving in your name” and I’m pretty sure most people would have a similar reaction. Thanks for your honesty Liz. I’ve learned that no matter how brutally ugly and painful the truth is, if we share it, not only can people learn from us, the people we reach tend to be loving, respectful, and grateful. Not judgemental. Sometimes opening our hands to help is more an act of sharing our painful past than giving a handout. Liz, each time you write something, you open your hands to us.
Love everything you’ve shared here, Jaime, and how you are helping your son understand the truth of the Christ Child coming to earth on our behalf. Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic effort and a great teaching tool for kids: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ And bless you for your sweet comment about my open hands. Brought tears to my eyes. It’s such an honor to serve you in any way I can.
We do Op Christmas Child too and love it as our big Christmas endeavor. They are my Shoe Box kids and I love them dearly. Working from a master list and shopping all years for sales works great.
When I cared for my patients in Critical Care they were often elderly, poor and alone. Most times they were stable enough to sit out of bed in a chair. If so, I placed their feet in a basin of warm soapy water to soak. After a while I would kneel before them, wash, rinse, dry and lotion their feel. I had let the lotion bottle warm in the wash water and it was so soothing. Every time I washed their feet, whether in bed or the chair, I thought of my Jesus…every time. One patient reminds me of this each time I see him and his turn was at least twenty years ago. I am even more blessed than they…He feels so near when I serve.
Beautiful example of serving others, Cathy, with the very best of rewards: “He feels so near when I serve.” Yes!
I always enjoy your writings and teachings. I love how you are transparent with your readers and audiences it always helps me to know others deal with some of the same issues I do. What an awesome way to pray each day “What can I do for You, Lord?” or “What can I do for others?, instead of wondering, “What’s on my to-do list?” my desire is to never miss any opportunity to bless someone that God puts in my path. Each Monday during the school year I mentor a little girl who is in 3rd grade this year from the Inner City Church in my city. Her name is Alyssa, please pray that this year will be our BEST year yet (we start on Monday, Aug. 18th) and that she sees Jesus in me each week. Love you, Liz…
Your big first day is almost here, Diane! Praying this year with Alyssa will be life-changing for both of you. I do believe with all my heart that is God’s plan when we serve in His Name.
My son, always the most original and best giver in our family started giving donations in our names for Christmas about 10 years ago. At first he just gave willy nilly to whatever charity but has now begun to choose charities that he thinks we would personally choose. I think the little grandchildren still don’t appreciate it as much as they would a toy. However, he trys to make their birthday gifts more special. Hopefully, one day they will realize what their uncle was trying to teach them.
So thoughtful, this son of yours. Our son has also demonstrated what generosity looks like again and again. Very humbling, to learn from our children.
Why yes you can, says this chronic hugger. 🙂
I have a heart for listening to others speak first and then letting what I hear propel me to action. Sometimes I find this easy, and sometimes not so much.
Love you, Lizzie. (And I’m loving Lysa’s book too. Reading it now!) Thankful for all the ways you give to all us women. You are a treasure! xoxo
SO appreciate your splash of Monday morning encouragement, Kristen!
I have always done this all my life …give the
Last bit , to anyone I felt spirit led to give to that needed it…this is the first time i have ever spoken of it, i turned 26 yesterday and i can honestly say that God has never let me down a single day in my life.I have always spoken and considered everyone as equals, even the homeless ,let them stay over in my own home. People have always considered me a crazy person for my extreme actions, (mostly the ones ive helped lol) coz its not really your normal, everyday behavior ha ha ha .so people will just assume youre a nut job…So my crazy/irrational/unlogical behavior , well what I call leaps of faith…have never left me high and dry, God has reprovided each and every time, just in the nick of time, whenever i needed it , where ever ive needed it, however in many different shapes and forms unexpected and as soon as i needed it, also he is never too late, he always arrives on the scene at just the RIGHT time ,which is what you will usually call Your WRONG time, but He has showed me through experiences that that which we think is right timming isnt in alignment with Gods timmimg .and yes u do get dirty tryna help clean up someone elses mess, you may even fall yourself tryna pick somebody else up that has fallen down, you may even get tainted with the same shade of paint as those considered tainted you are trying to help…i know that you cant do housework or garden work without getting dust on you, and look absolutly spotless while doing it….if i leave one thought with you today to take with you, it is this…dont ever abandon anyone, or give up hope on anyone, it says in the word God will bring all his works to completion, just trust. I DONT care what people think of me or how crazy they think I am, we are not here to please people, we are here to pleas God and God alone…I know I’m not crazy, and I refuse to change for the world! And I Will be myself! Who God made me! Who agree s ?