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.
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.