Read Genesis 27, Esther 3, Proverbs 3:1-20 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 3:7-8.
Everyone is looking for the secret formula, the missing key that unlocks health and prosperity and happiness. These verses claim to have that formula or key. Look at all the favorable results that are described here:
- Long life: Verse 2a says that something “will prolong your life many years.”
- Peace in your heart and money in your pocket: Verse 2b says that it will “bring you peace and prosperity.”
- An easy road in life: Verse 6b: “he will make your paths straight.”
- A healthy body: Verse 8 says, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
These verses are Hebrew poetry and in Hebrew poetry ideas are repeated or restated in parallel phrases. So when verse 8 says, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones: then whatever “this” refers to must be the missing ingredient, the secret formula, the key that unlocks the life we all want.
So what is that secret? Verse 7: Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” The parallel commands are to do what your parents taught you to do (v. 1), submit to God (vv. 5a. 6a), love him faithfully (v. 3a), and worship him reverently (v. 7a). This is the secret formula to a successful life.
Lots of us say that we are doing these things but what is the real proof? The answer is in verse 7b: “shun evil.” Avoiding evil behavior is the test of whether or not someone loves God, worships God, and truly submits to and obeys God. More specifically, one who will “shun evil” is someone who has learned to “lean not on your own understanding” (v. 5b).
Our default instinct about how to live a peaceful, happy, prosperous life is to do evil and get away with it. We think that happiness comes from:
- materialism instead of wise stewardship (vv. 9-10)
- dishonesty instead of telling the truth
- taking advantage of others instead of serving with integrity
- sexual pleasure instead of loving faithfulness
- and on and on
Every sin you commit in your life is an act that happens when you “lean… on your own understanding.” Sin promises immediate shortcuts to happiness that instinctively appeal to our inner hunger for success and happiness. And, it is true that sin gives a certain amount of pleasure for a while.
But the pleasure sin offers diminishes over time; meanwhile the hidden costs of sin increase over time.
By contrast, someone who believes God’s commands instead of his own (sinful) instincts builds a life that gradually provides greater levels of happiness.
So this is the biblical formula for happiness: love God and show it by doing what God commands. This is a “secret” formula in the sense that it is the opposite of “your own understanding” (v. 5b).
It is also a secret in the sense that it requires the saving grace of God. Only the gift of eternal life in Jesus can make you want to fear God, love God, trust God and obey God when everything else in your body and mind screams at you to go the other way.
Today you may be offered a direct but sinful choice that seems like it will give you the pleasure you seek. You will be offered a dozen little choices that promise the same thing.
But because you know the Lord and have his Spirit, his word, and his new life in you, trust him and do the right(eous) thing instead. This is the secret path to true happiness.