And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
This verse is a wonderful example of parallelism. Often found in Hebrew poetry, parallelism refers to the presentation of two similar ideas; in this case, the second phrase basically saying the same thing as the first, with only minor variations: help the poor and needy. With "poor” and “needy” both meaning "afflicted or humbled, the terms often describe those who are physically and/or materially poor. Yet, the terms may also refer to believers who recognize their spiritual poverty. That is to say, they realize their spiritual growth is dependent on acknowledging their desperate need for that which only the Lord can supply. When He supplies us with whatever we lack, we are rich indeed.
During the days of His humiliation, our blessed Lord was also referred to as "poor": "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). It is for this reason, God asks us to reach out and help the poor and needy in the same way He has helped us. When we do, we honor Him in the same way He honors us.
With this in mind, the virtuous individual demonstrates compassion with concrete deeds toward the poor and needy. S/he loves the poor, not in word or in tongue only, but also in deed and in truth. But what really strikes me about this verse are the words, “she stretches out her hands to the needy." These words immediately conjure up an image of a mother reaching out to her children in time of need. it in fact reminds me of when my children were young. When either of them cried after being hurt or disappointed, my hand would automatically reach out to them without thinking.
Along with an image of a mother "stretching out her hands to the needy”, I also envision a virtuous individual who wants to do more than just give of her time, resources, or money. With a mother's natural instinct, the Proverbs 31 individual wants to show true compassion, nurturing all those who are in need. When they do, they realize help comes in many forms; not just monetarily. In fact, s/he realizes that there are times when the right thing to do is to NOT give any money. For example, in the case of a man who deceptively begs for money for groceries, only to spend it on alcohol. Or, in the case of a woman who routinely goes around church to church looking for free meals and financial gifts. Supporting this kind of behavior does not teach long-term personal responsibility.
Using wisdom and discernment, the Proverbs 31 often nurtures using creative, and often alternative, means. While s/he realizes giving of resources is a valuable and much-needed thing to do, s/he is also mindful to give of their heart too. For example, if a person is truly hungry, and s/he believes it is proper to help, the Proverbs 31 individual invites him or her into their home. They sit with them; share a meal with them; include them in as part of your family; and most of all… ask them to stay long enough for some words of encouragement, whether from the Bible or another inspirational work. The end result? The Proverbs 31 individual not only fed their tummy, but their heart too.
In closing, when extending a helping hand to others, ask God for guidance; specifically, wisdom and discernment in how best to meet the needs of those with whom He has placed in your life.
Remember ... touch a life today "The Little Way" by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, "I wish my community, knew...", then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.