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 firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov. 3:1-10 NIV)
Acquiring wisdom has the threefold benefits of long life, prosperity and peace. These should not be seen as ends in themselves to seek. Many will look at this verse and claim they have found the secret to gaining long life, prosperity and peace. They have missed the point. We are not to seek long life, prosperity and peace, we are to seek wisdom. We are to seek wisdom and then these benefits are received indirectly. Wisdom can help us avoid much heartache in life and when heartache does come, wisdom will help steer us through it. We are reminded to not forget the teachings of wisdom. We need this reminder because that is exactly what we do. If we are into underlining verses in our Bible we will probably already have underlined verse 5 and 6, but the danger is that we then go on to live as if those verses don’t mean anything. That’s what it means to forget the teachings.
The Teacher in these verses is encouraging us to give up a self-centred fantasy and replace it with a God centred reality. We cannot be masters of our own destiny. We are to love God and our neighbour; we are to be faithful to God. These attitudes should never leave us. V3-4 warns us against an attitude of independence. V5-6 – we normally think of this as finding guidance from God, but really it is a warning against self-determination. We entertain notions of being self-made people. We constantly depend on our own understanding because of the sense of pride that we have. It is not natural for us to submit all our ways to God. V7-8 opposes the sense of freedom that we feel we have to make our own moral rules. V9-10 teaches us that we do not have total ownership of our own goods.
The benefits of long life, prosperity, peace, a good reputation, straight paths, and health run throughout this passage. We shouldn’t think of these as rewards but rather results. If we make wise decisions and fear the Lord, there is a lot of tragedy that we can avoid.
We are to remember the teachings, to bind them around our necks, to write them on our hearts. These are all metaphors to encourage us to read God’s word. This shows us the place that the word of God should have in our lives. To forget God’s word is to live with a disregard for God’s commandments, to live without the fear of God and to be lacking in faith towards God. To keep God’s commands in our hearts means to place God commandments at the centre of our inner life, shaping our emotions, our mind and our will.
Long life is often seen as the blessing that God gives to His people. Peace is also a gift from God. This is a state of blessedness that we can enjoy when we live our lives the wise way. These gifts should be thought of as a general principle and not a specific promise. Many godly people have died at an early age.
It is interesting that the Teacher speaks about love and faithfulness leaving us. To live a loveless life is sad, but when the love of God and love of neighbour leaves us then what has our life become? Faithfulness can leave us, so that we are no longer faithful to God’s word. There is a real danger of losing love and faithfulness, and that is why the Teacher tells us to bind these around our neck and write them in our heart. They should be written in our hearts so that they shape what we do and are, we are to bind them to our neck because they should always be there to be seen by us and others.
These will give us favour with God and a good reputation before people.
The trust in the Lord that the Teacher commands in v5 is a trust that arises out of wisdom. It is to trust with all our heart. We are to avoid leaning on our own understanding. This means our own wisdom. It takes humility for us to acknowledge to ourselves that we are never wise enough to be able to make good decisions. We must always depend on God. The most dangerous time for us is just after we have by the help of God made some wise choices, as we can begin to think that we are good at these choices. We must in all our ways acknowledge God and it is God who will make our paths straight, not us.
We are to avoid being wise in our own eyes but rather find favour in the sight of God. The wise way to live is the best way to live. It is good for us and good for our bodies.
Every area of our lives should honour the Lord, including our time and our finances. The Lord is no person’s debtor.
Lord God I fear that wisdom can be such a fleeting thing. Help us to apply ourselves to godliness so that love and faithfulness will never leave us. Help us to put our trust in You and to commit all our ways into Your hands, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen