Proverbs 3:7-8 - “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (NIV)
“Eyes? Bones? Navel? Wha-whaat??”
I love the rich and ”catchy” figurative language that characterizes much of the Proverbs! In today’s Bible reading, we have references to the eyes, bones, and yes, even the bellybutton (Hebrew shor can be translated “navel”, but has been more aptly translated in most modern versions as “body”)!
The first part of verse 7 says “do not be wise in your own eyes”, which of course means that we should not “see” or consider ourselves as wise. Rather, we are to “fear the LORD” and “shun evil”. A fear of the LORD is closely related to what is expressed in the verses above these two (5a and 6a), where we must trust in Him, acknowledge Him, and submit to Him in everything (“with all your heart” [5a], “in all your ways” [6a]).
What about “shunning evil”? We are to turn away from the evil of pride. When we are not acknowledging God and leaving Him out of the equation, we are acknowledging only ourselves and our own so-called (dare I say “self-called”) “wisdom”. This leads us down the path to all kinds of evil. Not good!
Okay, so now what do we do with the next verse (8)? Is this suggesting to us a formula for better health? I’m sure that we’re aware that if we are making wise decisions under God’s wise leading (like not being gluttonous, avoiding other harmful addictions or abstaining from other destructive sinful activities), this could lead to better overall physical health—it at the very least should not compound or add to any pre-existing health conditions that we may have through no choice of our own. However, I’m sure that we happen to know many godly people who have struggled with profound health problems (again, not necessarily related to any sin on their part). Furthermore, we can see that the New Testament is rife with references to suffering as a part of the Christian life.
One thing that is important to consider here is that the word proverb is not synonymous with the word promise. Do some proverbs carry promises? I believe they do. Those can be safely tested and affirmed as being promises by virtue of simply finding those same promises elsewhere in the scriptures and keeping in mind sound exegetical principles such as asking questions such as “to whom is this passage addressed or referring to?” In light of this, we can see that many proverbs are not promises, but simply proverbs --- sayings of wisdom, precepts, principles that are expressed in the figurative language of poetry.
In light of all this, then, rather than taking this passage as a promise of good physical health, we can see in a spiritual sense that walking with God, acknowledging Him, depending on Him, and following His leading in our daily lives does produce a healthy conscience before the Lord and also a healthy sense of true peace—a peace that passes all human understanding --- even and especially in the midst of painful trials and suffering, yes, even through trials of sickness and poor physical health.
What other “nourishment” or “refreshment to your bones” can you think of in terms of the spiritual benefits? (Hint: there is a familiar list of spiritual fruit found in Galatians that includes the aforementioned peace. I recommend that you take a few minutes to look at the latter part of Galatians chapter 5 and read through that list and reflect on them in light of these verses in Proverbs.)
I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and pray that you and I will enjoy those “health benefits” this year as we acknowledge the presence and supremacy of our Lord in our lives.