And lean not on your own understanding

And lean not on your own understanding… (Proverbs 3:5)

We have talked about what it means to trust in the Lord with all your heart. You can read those posts here and here.

Today let’s look at the second part of verse 5: “And lean not on your own understanding.

Do not trust your own understanding

“Lean” means to put your weight on something for support, to rely on something to prop you up and keep you from falling. In this passage it implies the placing of trust. The teaching is, do not trust your own understanding.

Just as “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” instructs us to purposefully trust God with everything, the second phrase says we are to purposefully reject our own understanding of life, of our circumstances, and of our ability to choose the best path.

The word “own” is important. It refers to purely human understanding, the knowledge and wisdom that is outside the wisdom of God. It is the wisdom of men that is often referred to in Scripture as being not enough and that God will ultimately show to be foolishness. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). When we lean on our own understanding, we ask for support from something that can’t support us. We put our trust in something that is not trustworthy.

An example of this is found in Joshua 7 and 8. After the children of Israel experienced the glorious, God-given victory at Jericho, they came to the village of Ai. This was a small town that had neither the population nor the fortifications of Jericho. Common sense told Joshua and the Israelites that Ai would be no problem, and rather than asking the Lord for His plan and direction, they made their own plans. Instead of trusting the Lord, they leaned on their own understanding.

What they didn’t know was that there was sin in their camp. God would have directed them to deal with the sin, the break in their relationship with Him, first, and then led them to another victory, but they didn’t ask. They presumed. And they were routed in battle.

Trust in the Lord, not “common sense”

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” This is the lesson we must learn. Even when we think we know, we don’t know. Even when the path seems easy and obvious, it could lead to struggle and defeat without God’s wisdom to make our path straight.

Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” And how are we to walk wisely? By trusting in the Lord, not in our own “common sense.”

Leaning not on your own understanding is related to another important Biblical precept: living a life of faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Living by faith means relying on God, His wisdom, His truth, and trusting Him for our path.

We are to understand God’s path by seeking Him and His wisdom, living lives of obedience. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.” (Psalm 119:100) Notice it doesn’t say, “Once I understand Your precepts, I keep them.” The writer is saying he understands God’s teaching because he obeys. When living life on God’s path we will find that obedience comes before understanding. This is the way of faith.

If we lean on our own understanding, we are trying to live our lives by sight rather than by faith. It is putting our confidence in the flesh. Instead we are to walk by faith, and live as those “who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh…” (Philippians 3:3).

God is inviting you on a life adventure that is unimaginable even with Him and impossible without Him. It is an adventure of His making, based on the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge (Romans 11:33) and His boundless love for you. It is a life that requires faith and trust in the God of the universe. Choose this life today!

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