“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.”
I want to continue with the topic I addressed last Friday: By what standards do you live your life?
Back in June we looked at one of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible … Proverbs 3.5-8. It is a condensed summary of the two options for the source of the standards by which you live: Self-generated standards or God-given standards.
We can sum it up even more briefly: Don’t believe everything you think.
Here is the prime question: What is the source of authority in your life? What reference points do you use for right and wrong? Where do you look for moral guidance, direction, and authority? Proverbs tells us the wise person looks to God, but the foolish person looks to self.
This is not simply an individual question. It is also institutional and national. By what standards will an organization or team or school operate? By what standards will our nation operate?
The prevailing mindset in our current culture is to use personal preference as the reference point. Most people think a thing is true or good simply because it is something they happen to like; conversely, they think a thing is untrue or bad simply because it is something they don’t like. There is virtually no consideration for objective truth; standards have become almost entirely subjective.
As a result, people declare, denounce, and demand with reckless abandon. They say whatever they feel with little concern for what is actually real and true. In other words, because they think it, they believe it. This is precisely what Proverbs 3 warns against when it says, “Do not lean on your own understanding … Be not wise in your own eyes.”
The other element at work is that most people today form their personal preferences based on what is popular and fashionable in the prevailing culture. Ask people for their opinion of what is right and wrong, and you are likely to hear opinions that are far more socially-derived than thoughtfully-developed. Rather than carefully reasoned beliefs, people embrace and parrot opinions based on the narratives and sound bites that are mindlessly repeated in the culture.
Many today seem unwilling to articulate a thoughtful perspective based on objective information. Have you noticed how authoritatively people use decontextualized blurbs from social media or from a brief newspaper article or website as definitive “proof” that something is “true?”
People are quick to claim their opinion is based on the “facts,” even though the evidence they cite is often incomplete and selectively chosen to support a particular agenda or opinion. Sometimes the so-called facts are simply untrue.
In the midst of all this distorted cultural noise, the book of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding … be not wise in your own eyes.”
This is a commandment to think clearly and carefully. It is an admonition to acknowledge God as the author of truth, and then be humble and disciplined in your thinking process. Recognize that not everything you think or feel is correct. You have an old nature which is driven by “deceitful passions.” Your mind and heart are fully capable of deceiving you and leading you in the wrong direction.
Truth and wisdom come from the Lord, not from you, not from your favorite political party, and not from your preferred media outlet. Your primary responsibility is not to declare an opinion and then try to defend it; rather, you should first discover the truth and then align your life with it.
One more time: Don’t believe everything you think.