“…do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
The first part of our Scripture addressed who we are to trust and the role of the heart. For the next part we shift into the role of the mind, specifically as it pertains to our perception of reality. What you believe about reality, your worldview, is fundamental to the way you live your life. Every decision you make will flow out of your worldview on some level. So why does Proverbs tell us not to lean on our understanding? Proverbs is not telling us to reject understanding, but to be wary of placing too much stock on our own perception. The verse does not read, “Do not lean on understanding,” but, “Do not lean on your own understanding.”
Life in the Fish Bowl
During my high school years we had a fish named Oscar. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the fish tank. He would randomly leap out of the water, slamming straight into the lid of the fish tank. Oscar had scars all over his face from the impact. This activity would lead to his end. We found him one morning on the floor behind the tank. He was finally able to leap through the feeding door. Whatever Oscar thought he knew about the outside world proved to be his demise.
We are limited in our understanding like Oscar. In fact, we have a sort of fish tank of our own. Like Oscar, for everything we understand there are a million things we don’t. Think about it. Oscar’s world consisted of the inside of his tank and the room it was in. He knew nothing of the other rooms in the house much less the big world outside. When we were at the store buying his food, he was in the tank. When we were outside playing, he was in the tank. When we were 1,000 miles away visiting my grandparents on Christmas, he was in the tank. Now imagine this in light of your relationship with God. He is outside of time and space. He created the entire cosmos with a word. You are bound to this one planet and, specifically, to your immediate location and circumstance. Your “fish bowl” view is incredibly limited in comparison to God’s infinite perspective.
So when the Bible says, “Do not lean on your own understanding,” it is essentially saying, “Don’t be Oscar.” Don’t act on your limited worldview. Instead, let God’s Word be the authority upon which you act. Of course, this takes trust.
The world you see right in front of you is only a small picture of the world God knows and sees. So doesn’t it make logical sense to lean on His perspective instead of your own? After all, in God’s own words,
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)