Burning the Midnight Oil

She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
~Proverbs 31:18

Late to bed, early to rise… so it would seem! We already know that Jewel is up with the chickens, and now we find out that she also keeps right on working into the night! We’ll talk about that, but first let’s look at the beginning of the verse.

The version quoted above is NASB, my favorite, but here are a couple of other translations to get us really focused in on the meaning of the first part of this verse:

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. (ESV)

She sees that her business affairs go well; (CJB)

She sees that her profits are good, (HCSB)

She sees that her trading is profitable, (NIV)

Remember that she recently (in verse 16) bought a field and planted a vineyard. She also apparently makes clothes and belts to sell for more steady income (verse 24). Recognizing that the profits are helpful to her family, she refuses to slack on her commitments. She even continues working into the night to make sure she gets it all done. We might call this “burning the midnight oil,” but I doubt it’s midnight for her!

She is up with the chickens, after all. You really cannot consistently stay up past midnight, get up before dawn, and perform the kind of hard labor she does. Maybe for a time, but not for a lifetime. I doubt she stayed up “late,” as we consider it.

Sunset tonight in my neck of the woods is at 8:28 p.m. Generally, if it’s not too cloudy, opening the blinds in my house provides sufficient light for most of the day. However, that beautiful light begins to fade around dusk. And naturally, because the dimming light makes it harder to see as night falls, I go ahead and close the blinds, brush my teeth, and head for bed. What. Don’t you? In the words of Gretl von Trapp, “The sun has gone to bed, and so must I! Goodnight!”

Okay, not really. I, just like you, turn on the light so I can keep doing stuff. And Jewel did the same thing, except her light was an oil lamp. So we’re likely not talking about midnight here, but more like what we might call “evening.”  She, like me, probably put the kids to bed, and then stayed up a bit. Although I’m speculating, I bet she went to bed well before midnight so that she would be refreshed and alert for the next day’s tasks. And so should we.

I think I’ve always pictured the woman in this verse toiling away into the wee hours of the morning while everyone else slept, but it just doesn’t seem to fit with her character of wisdom and responsibility in the rest of the chapter, does it? Although this is not really the point of this verse, what I got out of it is that work is good. Profit is good. Work hard, but don’t risk your health by being a workaholic. (That last part isn’t there, of course, but that’s how it hit my heart!) If you consistently need to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, reevaluate your commitments so you can work on changing your bedtime to a healthy one!

What about you? Are you a night owl, or do you call it a night as early as your grandma? 😉

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, I’ve told you before to avoid the lazy woman. Let me add to it this: avoid the over-committed woman. Over-commitment to work, school, extra projects, church functions, personal endeavors, etc., leads to overtiredness, which leads to irritability and lack of productivity. She will be stressed, snippy, and sour. She may do a lot of things, but she will probably do none of them well, and few of them happily. And where do you fit in once your newness wears off? You don’t. Not really, anyway. You just happen to be around, but all she wants to talk about is how stressed she is. How fun! Rather, find a woman who does work hard, but who also works smart. Someone who knows what she loves to do, knows what she is good at, knows what is profitable, and works very hard at those few things. If she takes on too much, everyone will pay, and no one will profit.

My Love, my focus in this post is not mainly what this verse is about, I know. In fact, it doesn’t talk about going to sleep at all, but I inferred that she must sleep if she rises in the morning! Still, this verse is mainly about recognizing a profitable endeavor, and working hard at it. So what is my profitable endeavor? At this time, my profitable endeavors do not make money, as you know. In the future, when the time is right, I hope to be able to do what I know I love to do, what I am good at, and I hope that it will be profitable! But for now, I am so thankful for this opportunity to invest in our little guy. He’s worth the temporary sacrifice! (But boy do I have to become a bestselling author to make up for this, am I right?!)

My Lord, it is amazing to me that I have had different answers at different times in my life to the questions I gave Bennett. Years ago, I would say that I loved to teach, that I was good at it, and that it was profitable in more ways than one. Now, I would say that I love being a homemaker, that I’m *learning to be* good at it, and that it’s profitable in ways I cannot yet imagine. Someday, I hope to say that I love writing, that I am good at it, and that I will be a bestselling author! Please?! Seriously though, I know I am so, so blessed, and that You deserve all the praise. You are my Provider, and You have always taken care of me. Teach me to use my time well to serve you, whether I get an earthly penny for it or not.

♥ ♥ ♥


(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)