“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 KJV)
The book of Proverbs contains hundreds of pieces of advice written to teach the reader how to be wise (Proverbs 1:1-2). The biblical concept of wisdom means, in short, to live according to God’s will as expressed in the Bible.
Let’s look at what the wise writer has to say about our own knowledge and understanding when it comes to being a wise servant of the Lord.
#1 God’s Wisdom vs. Human Wisdom
The Bible is very clear about our natural ability to obtain knowledge and to understand, and how small that knowledge and understanding are from God’s wisdom. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV).
Can you imagine the distance between the outskirts of the universe and our planet? This illustration shows how impossible it is for us to comprehend the distance between our thoughts and God’s thoughts, and our wisdom and His wisdom.
The apostle Paul wrote about how we cannot fathom how far God’s wisdom is above our natural wisdom in Romans 11:33-36. He starts by exclaiming, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33 KJV). Then he goes on to beautifully express the supremacy of God.
He is the creator (Revelation 4:11); we are His creation (Genesis 1:27). If we can observe the world around us and learn from it, it is because He made us like that. If we touch a hot surface, get burned, and learn not to touch it again, it is because He gave us that ability. But keep in mind that since He created everything, He knows everything. He doesn’t need to experiment to learn. It is impossible for us to even grasp how superior God’s knowledge and wisdom are to ours.
#2 Can We Trust Our Natural Wisdom?
We know that God gave us a natural ability to obtain wisdom and knowledge. We also know that they are so limited. Does that mean God doesn’t want us to use our wisdom and knowledge? Should we disregard everything we’ve ever learned?
We need to pay close attention to what the biblical text says. The writer of Proverbs tells us not to “lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV). That means we should not trust our own understanding because it is too limited.
What should we do instead? The response is in the first part of that verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV). Note that, back then, the biblical writers considered the “heart” not only as the center of human emotions but also of the mind and the will. For examples on the heart being associated with thinking and decision making, see Proverbs 5:12, 10:8, and 15:28.
Therefore, we can use our knowledge and wisdom, but we should not put our trust in them. We must put our trust in the Lord instead. In fact, God uses our natural ability to obtain knowledge and wisdom (our understanding) to teach us about Him. He uses our ability to learn from our mistakes to show us His ways. But we need to acknowledge our limitations so we can be ready to be corrected by the Word of God, to change our minds, and to follow His will.
#3 True Wisdom Is a Matter of Trusting the Lord
Solomon wrote, “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6 KJV). He also wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10 KJV).
There is no true wisdom apart from God. He is the One that reveals it to us, through His Word. Our ability to learn, combined with the work of the Holy Spirit in us, is what allows us to obtain true wisdom, understand it, and put it into practice (1 Corinthians 2:14). Biblical wisdom is not just a matter of information in our brains. It needs to be practical. It is how we live a life that pleases the Lord (Proverbs 1:1-4).
The wisdom of God might not immediately make sense to us (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). It might be difficult to understand that we should love our enemy (Matthew 5:44), or value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to name just a few examples. But once we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 KJV), we can understand those things, and we will see that they are good (James 3:17). But we need to learn to trust the Lord, even if His will doesn’t make much sense at first.
The wise King Solomon taught us an important lesson. True wisdom is out of reach of our natural abilities. We need to understand our limitations and be humbled, so we can be guided by the Lord through His Word. We must trust Him, knowing that His wisdom is far superior to ours. And He will teach us and makes us wise. He will guide us and enable us to live wisely according to His will.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.