The meaning of Proverbs 3:5 has to do with giving God control of our hearts and submitting our mental abilities to the power of God for His divine influence.
In this Proverbs 3:5 devotional, we will delve into this very popular passage and seek to understand what it truly means to trust God with all your heart.
Proverbs 3:5 meaning in context
Most of the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon. He has gone down in history as one of the wisest men to have ever lived.
Proverbs are wise sayings that help people to live in wisdom. They help us make good decisions so that our chances of succeeding in life are higher.
Proverbs are not Bible promises. You could still live according to the wisdom revealed in Proverbs and still fail or face difficulty.
We live in a world of sin and our enemy is always trying to destroy us. But God has promised us protection so that our best efforts at obeying his word can bear some fruit.
A part of that protection comes when we lean on God’s wisdom instead of our own.
Each chapter in Proverbs has a theme. Chapter 3 focuses on trusting God.
The voice in Proverbs 3 is that of a father speaking to his son about the fact that true wisdom is in fearing (trusting) God.
Let’s study the message Solomon wanted his son to get.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart meaning
The Hebrew word for trust used in this verse is batach. It means to rely on a person.
It refers to having a deep sense of security from having complete confidence or belief in someone.
Batach paints the picture of physically leaning on someone for support.
To go deeper, batach carries the idea of a person being stretched out on their belly before their master with their face down, completely ready to respond to the will and command of his master.
If you claim to trust God, does this picture describe your personal posture before God?
It is clear that trusting God requires complete humility and death to self.
What does it mean to trust God with all my heart?
In Scripture, the use of the word heart often does not refer to the physical organ in the body.
Instead, it is usually figurative. Heart is used as a metaphor that refers to a person’s character, their spiritual condition, their mind, their emotions and will.
The heart is considered the center of the human being that controls the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, desires, understands the world and makes decisions.
It is the thing that has the greatest amount of influence over our lives.
That’s why Solomon says in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
But there is a problem with the human heart.
It has been corrupted by sin. Jeremiah described the human heart like this:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
Another rendition of this verse uses the phrase desperately wicked for the phrase beyond cure. (NKJV)
To trust God with your whole heart therefore means to submit and surrender your control center to God.
Remember the picture of trust that was described above?
Because of our sinful condition we are most likely prone to being foolish.
But if we completely give our will, desire, emotions, thoughts, decision-making skills…our whole inner world…then we are trusting God with all our hearts.
Lean not on your own understanding meaning
If you have been following our discussion so far, you might notice that the phrase lean not on is echoing the same idea in the phrase trust in the Lord.
The Hebrew word for lean is sha’an. In its most literal sense, it means to physically lean on something for support.
In Proverbs 3:5, it is used figuratively to describe the act of relying on or trusting in someone or something.
Therefore when Solomon says lean not to your own understanding, he is basically saying we should not rely on or trust ourselves.
But he is very specific about what part of yourself you should not trust: your understanding.
What does God mean by to lean not on your own understanding?
There are many Hebrew words for understanding in the Old Testament.
The one used in Proverbs 3:5 is binah. This word refers to our intellectual faculty. It describes our God-given ability to think through something in an insightful way.
Understanding happens when you take all the knowledge you have, and use your intellectual power to discern what might not be obvious to everyone else and determine the best course of action among many options.
This understanding is also what helps us to know what is right and wrong in a situation where the answer is not clear.
But again our mental faculty or intellect is sinful. We naturally lean towards errors and mistakes, even with the very best of intentions.
How many absolutely brilliant people do you know who make mistake after mistake after mistake? They just can’t seem to get their life together.
Why does this happen?
Because we can become too brilliant to trust God.
But, if we submit that aspect of our being to God, He will guide us through our intellect.
Notice Solomon says your understanding. Clearly there is a difference between our carnal human understanding and God’s divine understanding.
Without God’s wisdom, our understanding is pretty much going to lead us down wrong roads.
Let’s explore an example from Scripture.
Examples of leaning on your own understanding
Solomon was able to counsel us in Proverbs 3:5 because he knew from personal experience what this was all about:
With all the wisdom, knowledge and understanding God gave to him, you would think there are mistakes he wouldn’t have made.
Solomon moved away from God. Started trusting in his own understanding. Before he knew it, he was making bad decisions.
Things like marrying into royalty in pagan nations for economic benefits. It was a slippery slope because without effort these women led him straight to pagan worship.
God had already promised Solomon wealth beyond his imagination. He had no need of marrying these pagan women.
But his own carnal understanding told him that that was a good decision.
Solomon stopped trusting God and started to trust himself more than God.
What does this look like in your own life?
Do you have a decision to make and there is a really good option on the table?
Something doesn’t seem settled about it but you just can’t put your finger on what isn’t right?
Maybe the option doesn’t align with God’s word and you are pretty sure that it doesn’t. You know Scripture after Scripture that tells you it doesn’t…
Maybe God told you explicitly not to go that way but you just can’t see why because everything looks good (according to your own brilliant calculations)…
With any of these scenarios, if you choose to take the plunge anyway, that would be leaning on your own understanding.
Or, maybe you jumped right into decision-making without so much as a prayer, completely forgetting to consult with God first.
This too is leaning on your own understanding.
Dangers of learning on your own understanding
Tell me, how has relying on your own understanding caused you pain and pressure instead of pleasure and praise?
You probably have a few testimonies about the cost of trusting yourself.
I have too many that I will not be quick to talk about.
Let the Scriptures speak about the dangers of leaning on your own understanding.
Here are three Bible verses to ponder:
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12 NIV
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. Proverbs 30:12
What fruit did you reap at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death. Romans 6:21
These Scriptures reveal that the biggest danger of leaning on our own understanding is destruction and death.
Sometimes, it’s not a physical death that happens. Other things die: opportunities, relationships, status etc.
Proverbs 30:12 tells us that we run the risk of thinking about ourselves in a light that doesn’t measure reality.
This is why we should lean on God.
The question is, how do we accomplish this?
How do I trust God with all my heart?
Here are a few practical tips to help you lean on God with your whole heart.
Embrace and commit the intelligence and intellect given to you by God
As Christians we often pay more attention to our spiritual life. We usually don’t realize that God is interested in our whole being.
He made us intellectual beings. He made us with perfect intelligence.
Sin has tainted it. This is why there are all sorts of mental health problems and disabilities related to our mind.
The enemy knows that if we function at full capacity and we are in full partnership with God, his kingdom would be in trouble.
Embrace the blessing of being brilliant. Stop living beneath your intellectual potential.
Without embracing this blessing under the awareness that God has gifted you in this way, it is hard to submit your intellect to God.
If you cannot submit that part of you to God, you will always try to solve your own problems without asking God for help.
You know how it usually ends when you do this.
You’re bright. God is way more brilliant though.
How about putting your God-given brilliance under His influence?
The Holy Spirit is ready and waiting to be your ever present guide.
Where would you start with this?…
Spend quality time with God
If you need godly understanding, you have to bathe yourself in God’s presence and word.
This is not an option.
You will need to increase your knowledge of what God has revealed in the Bible. You have to saturate your life with Scripture study.
That’s how God will shape and sharpen your mind. That’s how God gets control of your control center which Solomon calls our heart.
Developing greater understanding is one of the benefits of studying and obeying God’s word:
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. Psalm 119:99-100 ESV
You are probably thinking that the Bible doesn’t speak explicitly about every situation so it is not going to be useful all the time.
You’re right, the Bible doesn’t speak explicitly about every situation but it is always useful.
Here’s what you do: Search the Scriptures for principles. Principles are enduring universal truths.
Principles help you to sift through the chaos and apply Bible truths in cases that are not black and white.
Bible principles keep you away from dishonoring God and jeopardizing your integrity.
The more you study God’s word, the more principles will emerge to you because the Holy Spirit of truth will reveal them to you.
Ask God what He thinks
As I said before, trusting God with our hearts means to submit our control center to Him.
As you come up with ideas and solutions, filter everything through God’s word and prayer.
Ask God what He thinks about everything.
Moses went to God in dealing with this situation, especially because the right answer wasn’t immediately clear based on the rules and culture of the time.
Make it a habit to pray to God about everything. No matter how massive or minute, God wants to hear about it.
Trusting God comes out of going deeper in relationship with him.
His desire is to be the BFF who has the greatest amount of influence on your heart.
Trust your relationship with God
When you start saturating your life with Scripture and prayer, God will start showing up and speaking to you more often.
When that starts happening, trust God’s voice and follow His voice.
Galatians 5:25 (ESV) says If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
The NLT puts it this way: Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Knowing God’s voice and hearing God’s voice isn’t enough. The circle is not complete if we do not follow and obey God’s leading.
Saul attempted to worship God after being brazenly disobedient to His voice. Samuel spoke up:
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT
Disobedience is one way of leaning on our own understanding. But following God’s voice in complete obedience is an expression of trusting God.
Final words – What does Proverbs 3:5 teach us?
Here’s the bottom line: if you trust God with all of your heart, you cannot at the same time rely on yourself.
When you trust God, your heart is constantly under the influence of God.
Who or what has the greatest weight right now in your life?
How have you been leaning on your own understanding?
What will be the first thing you do with getting on track with trusting God more?