The Godly Life Versus the Good Life

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:1-12 ESV

The Proverbs are full of comparisons, juxtapositions, and contrasts. There is wisdom and foolishness, wickedness and righteousness, and the God-follower and the self-worshiper. These sayings of Solomon paint a vivid picture that contrasts the life of the man who seeks after God and the man who turns his back on God, setting himself up as the master of his own fate and the captain of his soul.

Solomon writes from the perspective of a father appealing to his child, begging his son to make the attainment of wisdom and understanding his highest priority. But in doing so, Solomon is not suggesting that his son pursue an academic-based education. He is not recommending an increase in human reason or mere head-knowledge. He is spurring on his son to pursue God – the sole source of all wisdom, knowledge, reason, and common sense.

Getting to know God is the goal, not gaining wisdom for wisdom’s sake. Solomon tells his son, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NLT). How easy it is for each of us to trust in anything and everything but God. Rather than trust God, we turn to our own limited understanding and attempt to explain the complexities of life and solve the difficulties that come with living life on this sometimes perplexing planet.

If we lack joy, we attempt to find it through the means that this world makes possible. If we feel unloved, we seek satisfaction and significance through the pursuit of pleasure or even promiscuity. We seek – but we tend to seek in the wrong places.

But Solomon tells his son, “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:6 NLT). He reminds his son that wisdom brings joy, is profitable, valuable, precious, and is the key to long life. But that kind of wisdom is only available from God. Wisdom, true wisdom, flows directly from God and nowhere else. Our ability to live life well on this planet is completely dependent upon the wisdom and understanding that God alone provides. And it comes from a relationship, not just a book.

We learn wisdom from watching and coming to know God, not just by reading about Him. Wisdom isn’t a product that God imparts. It is the essence of who He is. It is His very character. Wisdom, understanding and knowledge do not exist apart from God. So, what the world offers as wisdom is a cheap substitute.

At their core, wisdom and understanding are spiritual resources, not academic or cerebral ones. They flow from a right relationship with God. Solomon tells us, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7 NLT). The fool wants nothing to do with God. He desires wisdom and understanding for their own sake, for what he might get out of them. But he has no desire to have a personal relationship with the One who makes them possible. He does’t want the loving discipline that also comes from God and is necessary for acquiring true wisdom and understanding. But those who long to have a relationship with God will find that wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are the byproducts of their pursuit of God.

One of the things Solomon desires for his son is the sense of peace and well-being that come through a right relationship with God. By pursuing and availing himself of the wisdom God has to offer, this young man can experience a wide range of beneficial and highly attractive blessings from God.

Length of days and years of life… – vs 2

Peace… – vs 2

Favor… – vs 4

Good success… – vs 4

Straight paths… – vs 6

Healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones… – vs 8

Full barns and vats bursting with wine… – vs 10

The loving reproof of God… – vs 12

This isn’t Solomon’s version of the prosperity gospel. He isn’t offering his son the key to having his best life now. He is simply stating that godly wisdom results in godly character and those whose lives bring glory and honor to God will be rewarded.

It is Solomon’s hope and prayer that his son will remember and ingrain all that he has taught. He wants his son to implement his teachings and commandments. But Solomon isn’t speaking of human insights or mere fatherly wisdom. He is calling his son to listen, learn, and appropriate all the godly wisdom that he has tried to impart, including steadfast love and faithfulness (vs 3). These things are of such value that Solomon compares them to priceless jewels to be hung on a necklace and worn around the neck. They are to be written down and preserved for posterity, kept close to the heart so that they are always within reach when needed.

The godly life is a profitable life because it brings favor with God and also with men.

you will find favor with both God and people,
    and you will earn a good reputation. – Proverbs 3:4 NLT

Godly people stand out in the crowd. Their relationship with God sets them apart and makes them distinctively different from the rest of the world. Unlike other people, those who place their trust in God display a reliance on His will instead of their own. They depend upon His wisdom rather than trusting on their own flawed and highly limited understanding. They make it a habit to turn their backs on evil and keep their eyes focused on the only One who can help them walk the straight path that leads to life rather than death.

Since God is their sole source of wisdom, comfort, security, and significance, they are willing to give back to Him what rightfully belongs to Him, including their material resources. That’s why Solomon encourages his son to be generous with God.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10 NLT

God doesn’t need our “stuff.” He doesn’t require our possessions in order to fill His depleted treasury. By giving our resources to God, we are acknowledging that they have not taken His place as the source of all our needs, wants, and desires. We have not allowed the gifts to take precedence over the Giver.

And the one who understands and appreciates the role of God as the sole source of sustenance in his life will also warmly receive and accept God’s loving discipline. God provides for all our needs, from the physical to the spiritual and the psychological to the moral. He loves us enough to discipline us. He patiently trains and lovingly corrects us.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12 NLT

So, the one who willfully seeks the wisdom of God through an ever-deepening relationship with God will always experience a well-balanced does of blessings and discipline.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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