Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 31:20
"And she extends her hands to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy"
The second half of this chapter of proverbs – written by the mother of a king named Lemuel – is about a fully engaged and wise woman who throughout her roles as wife, mother, businesswoman, citizen, employer, and worshipper is an example of wisdom and energy and love. In each of the spheres she touches, she adds to that arena. As the concentric circles of her life keep extending outward, she is a servant-leader in each one. She looks to add value, to love, and to inject positive righteousness into that sphere.
In this particular verse Lemuel recounts how his mother told him about the virtuous woman who gives some of what she has made to the poor. She does not consume all she makes on herself, her husband, and her family; but she saves some so that as a righteous person she can care for those whose circumstances are less than desirable. She realizes that selfishness, in any sphere of her life, robs her of the voice of God and the righteousness of society.
This is the Hebrew word paras, which means to spread out, to extend. The idea clearly here is that she pushes her goods out to the poor where it does not have to go. She extends to care for them. Her whole life is not caring for the poor, but she extends her hand to give some to the poor. The danger that many fall into is that they do not have a balance between all the spheres of their life. They become all about one arena or the other rather than realizing that life has many arenas and they all need different levels of involvement and care. This woman is not so family-focused that she forgets the poor until her children are grown. She is not so business-focused that she neglects her family or the poor. She realizes that some part of what she can provide is needed in each sphere; not the same amount but varying according to priority and stage of life.
The word extends and the words stretches out means that she is the initiator of this care for the poor. She is the one who thinks of and initiates contact with the poor.
Ladies, let me suggest that even though your life is full of things to do, realize that a couple hours of time given to helping those who are truly in need will be good for them and great for your soul. There are a myriad of things that you can do to encourage and help the poor. It may involve money. It may involve volunteering at a rescue mission or charitable organization. God may direct you to work with the blind, the disabled, the battered, the addicted, those caught in disasters, etc.
I believe that a solid believer in God sets aside at least two hours every month to extend his/her hand to the poor in some way. This is true for both men and women, young and old. When we only spend time on what directly affects what we like, we become shriveled people and our society loses a significant level of its warmth and compassion.