Wisdom Bestows Well-Being
3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favour and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honour the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honour.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbour,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbour,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
when they have done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the violent
or choose any of their ways.
32 For the Lord detests the perverse
but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honour,
but fools get only shame.
Chapter 3 introduces us to the aphorisms of Proverbs and is packed with wisdom and training in attitudes.
Chapter 3 begins, as usual, with advice for Solomon’s son. Solomon encourages his son to remember his commands. The son must remember the words. But he should also aim for a deeper experience. Wisdom should enter his heart. Wisdom should guide his thoughts. Wisdom should underpin his emotions and desires.
The son will benefit from wisdom. Solomon mentions health and wealth. This is not to be confused with the health and wealth gospel where the attitude of giving will generate some kind of special blessing from God. It’s not a tool that can be manipulated for personal gain but is a general principle in universal law.
Wisdom brings health, because wisdom teaches safe actions. A wise person eats good food and takes care of his body, does not take risks with his health. Wisdom brings wealth, because the wise person is careful. The wise person works hard and he does not waste money. Health and wealth are not exclusively a sign of wisdom. A thief can become wealthy, because he steals. An oppressive person can take money from other people.
True health is not only the health of the body. Our relationship with God must also be healthy. In fact, our relationship with God is more important than simply taking care of our body (Matthew 5:29-30).
Solomon was very wealthy. But he knew that true wealth is not material gain. (Proverbs 3:14-15). Wisdom is worth more than silver or gold. Wisdom is worth more than riches.
Love and trust should always be with us. As Solomon writes this, he is perhaps thinking about Deuteronomy 6:7-9. Love and trust should direct our thoughts, plans and attitudes. Love and trust should always be in our heart and mind. This should be the basis of our decision making.
Verses 5-6 are about our ultimate and total trust in God. Trust his ways enough to live them. Trust his heart enough that we know he will take care of us and meet our needs. Trust him with circumstances that are around us and effect us enough to not try and manipulate situations for the benefit of our desires or control them and try to play God.
God is wiser than we are. (Isaiah 55:8-9). All true wisdom comes from God. Human wisdom is weak, shallow, short sighted and has a wrong foundation. Human wisdom is based on our limited experience of existence and is motivated usually by our own selfish core.
Everything we have belongs ultimately to God. It is a gift. He loans it to us. All of our resources, all of our money, our time, our health. We must give it all back in the end because we are merely borrowing it from him. We are simply stewards.
In verses 11-12, discipline sounds like a harsh word and yet God’s discipline is grounded in love. He may discipline or correct us by the words of the Bible as we read it or hear it, he may discipline us by the correction from another person. Sometimes it may be a believer and sometimes it may be a non believer. Perhaps a boss at work or a neighbour. If his word does not grab our attention or human correction falls on deaf ears then he will use the circumstances of our lives. It makes me think of the words in Hebrews 3 ‘If you hear God’s voice today, do not refuse him!’ (Hebrews 3:15)
In Proverbs 1:20-33, Solomon describes wisdom as a woman. This happens again in Proverbs 3:13-18. There is a difference. In Proverbs 1, Wisdom is angry with evil people. They have refused her advice. In Proverbs 3, we read about the people who love Wisdom. Wisdom brings good things to them; long life, wealth and honour (verse 16). When we walk with Wisdom, our life is pleasant and beautiful (verse 17). It makes me visualize it like a work of art unfolding. There are going to be stages before it is finished when it looks messy and chaotic, even unpresentable but the finished picture is going to be amazing.
Verses 14-15 compare Wisdom to valuable objects. She is worth more than precious stones. Her value is more than silver or gold. You can invest in precious stones and metals. They will most likely give you a profitable return, so you will get more back than you put in. However, these investments are not as secure as Wisdom. If you give your life to Wisdom, she will pay more than any investment. No investment can make your life longer. But Wisdom can increase the possibility of a long life. No investment can promise you a place in eternity. But wisdom can promise this. No investment can make you right with God. Wisdom can lead to this.
In verses 19-20 we read that God used his wisdom to make the world. It is woven into the fabric of creation. This paragraph is similar to John 1:1-3. ‘In the beginning was the word. The word was with God. The word was God. He was with God in the beginning. God made everything by his word. He made nothing without the word.’
Verse 22 informs us that Wisdom is true beauty and the most valuable possession we can own. It looks attractive like a beautiful necklace.
Verses 23-26 compare life with a journey. This is a common Biblical theme. This passage reminds us that we are under God’s protection. We have nothing to fear. There are a lot of similar statements in the Psalms: Psalm 121, Psalm 46:1, and Psalm 62:2.
Even our sleep can be peaceful and refreshing. Sleeplessness is often caused by stress and anxiety. We can have a peace that passes understanding if we embrace God’s wisdom (Philippians 4:7).
Verses 27-28 are about love and kindness. That our attitude should always follow the golden rule of treating others the way we would want to be treated in the same situation.
Verse 31 calls us not to envy the violent. We can look at people who may be successful and we want to be like them but this is a word of caution. We all have role models and people who inspire us, people we want to be like. Before I was a Christian some of those people were rock stars or artistic heroes. There was something that attracted me to them. They may have had something that connected with my worldview or an attitude that resonated with my desire to challenge the status quo or the accepted ways of doing life. They were provocative and stirring, sometimes in positive ways but more often than not in quite destructive ways.
My grandfather, actually both of my grandfathers inspired me. They were both humble men who were down to earth and lived simple straight forward lives. They were honest, hard working and both had a sense of the spiritual. One was well connected socially and loved by many people within his community. He was outward focused and was a galvanizing influence on particularly young people, the other was a very private person, more of an introvert and yet very friendly, humorous, clever and engaging when someone would initiate a conversation.
Occasionally peers and bosses have inspired me to work or communicate in a certain way. I remember a guy who led a training course I took part in as a young manager and who that changed my worldview of leadership and management. One of my bosses gave me some advice as a young manager that I will always remember. “You are more of a caretaker than a manager. You do a good job of taking care of what other people have entrusted to you but you don’t move things forward. I want you to think about where you want to take this team and then take them there”.
It is good to allow other people to inspire us or look for role models that may encourage us to grow or change in a positive way but we are to be discerning. This world is filled with footballers earning multi million pounds, politicians tweeting to stir the waters of dissension, rock stars flaunting whatever it is they flaunt, religious leaders who are filled with hypocrisy and self preservation (I was one, and I have seen many), celebrity culture that allows people to be famous for the sake of being famous and the list goes on.
The point is be careful who you influencers are, be careful who and what you envy. The ultimate hero for us is Jesus. He is to be our primary influencer. My flesh lusts after a comfortable life where everyone appreciates me and gives me positive affirmation, where I am valued and appreciated, where I can make some music and people say it’s great, where I can write an article and someone tells me how insightful and engaging it is, where I could (in the old days) deliver a sermon and people would tell me how insightful it is. This Jesus though pursued none of this and whilst my ego looks for strokes, my heart beats faster when I read about Jesus and the way he was with people knowing that when he was provocative it was not to make a point or get his voice heard to stroke his ego but it was to demonstrate love and give us a taste of “who is God”.
Ultimately it is about trusting in God completely. We are not God. Our problems are mostly because we think we are or other people think they are. God will deal with this and us and those other people (whoever they are) in appropriate ways. He is completely even handed just, fair and does everything with absolute love.
Proverbs 3:34, is quoted by both James and Peter in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:6. respectively.
This chapter resonates with my soul and my life experience. I have lived on both sides of the fence. Now I try to do it God’s way and chase wisdom.