"She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar."
Now, this is an interesting topic.
I think that in order to understand the teaching, and apply it to our present-day circumstances, we need to get the context.
Imagine you are living in Old Testament Israel. It's not exactly the lush, farming land that we get here in England, or in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, parts of it are plain arid and dry. If you think back to when the land was divided between the tribes, there were certain areas that were coveted because of their streams of water. That enabled more farming and cultivation. A lot of technology had to be invented to get water to areas for farming. Certain crops and grains we do know WERE farmed. Think of the times of harvest mentioned in the book of Ruth. We know they grew olives, and that is still a major industry even today. Likewise grapes and vineyards.
However, a lot of their food, especially varied spices and certain fruits and vegetables, would have been imported. We studied the Phoenecians with the children, as part of our school, and we learnt about the early established trading routes with the rest of Europe. These are the kind of merchant ships referred to in this verse.
Staple foods were available locally, but we see here that she is not just relying upon those.
Our Proverbs 31 woman is getting in those special, hard to get, items, that could only be obtained by putting in some effort.
This verse certainly does NOT say that you have to be self-sufficient and only eat what you grow yourself. I am not condemning such a life. I admire those who are willing and able to do such a thing. I can imagine there is a lot of joy in eating what you have laboured to produce.
The verse says almost the opposite. It is a good, and right, thing, to source and obtain your food from further afield. She was trying to obtain items that were special, almost luxury, by bringing food from afar. I know it does not say that she GETS her food from the merchants, but if she is being likened to them, she is certainly obtaining food outwith the "easy option" of the locality she is in.
So, how can we apply this to our current situation?
Firstly, I would suggest that we should not feel guilty about only buying our food, and not growing any of our own. There is a certain pressure and culture, especially amongst home-educators, to eat a certain way, and live a certain way. There is an element of legalism about how you should live, and the choices you make regarding food and eating. Not everyone CAN grow their own. They may have no space, no time, or no interest. That is FINE! (well, I hope it is, because that's me in all 3...) It's great if you have space, time and interest. GO FOR IT. But, don't condemn those who don't.
Secondly, I would suggest that we are being advised to be wise shoppers. We need to be willing to put some effort in to finding the best food for our family. We need to source what we think is good and right to eat, and be willing to get it from wherever we can. Maybe that will mean shopping around. Maybe that will mean sourcing it from places other than a regular supermarket. Maybe it will mean thinking about making changes that are good for your family, even it requires a bit of effort to do so.
Thirdly, I think there is an implication of getting the BEST and to a certain extent TREATS, for our family! Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman could have stuck with local produce. I am sure that it would have meant they had an adequate diet, and would have been well fed. To me, however, there is the element of finding something a bit special, in this verse. To me, it would be buying certain fruits and vegetables that may not be the "norm" for us, by finding what's on offer and treating the family. For example, nectarines are not a staple fruit for us (that would be apples, bananas and grapes....), but I am willing to get them just now, because the children will love them, and they are on offer!!! I will even get some things, NOT on offer, to make sure my family has a varied, healthy diet. Robert and I work on the principle that we will go without many things in life (gadgets, treats, games, etc) but we won't scrimp on food. If our last penny had to be allocated somewhere, it would be in making sure our children are fed with good food. I am not telling everyone else they should do the same, I am just letting you know what WE do, though! *grin*
To a certain degree, the culture we live in already takes the work out of this task FOR us. Have you ever stopped to look at WHERE all your food comes from. Some day, if you haven't done it before, make a list of all the countries of origin of the food that you eat. Most our ours in the UK, certainly, is labelled quite clearly to show you. You get tuna from the Pacific, and around Africa - fruit and vegetables from Egypt and other African countries, other thing are from South America. It's a fascinating topic to study to do with your children, or even from your perspective. Get them to makes a list of where they all come from, then put it on a map and learn a bit about how they get from there to you!
So, I deviated there! Oops. Turning my Proverbs 31 post into an educational one! *teehee*
Let's be wise shoppers this week, and get the best we can for our family.