Fork in the Road: Decision Making in the Proverbs (pt. 3)

In this post we are going address the third key ingredient to decision-making in Proverbs: Submitting to the Lord’s will. Read part 1 and part 2 in this series.

III.         Submitting to the Sovereign

In the process of decision making, the most important ingredient is God Himself. Proverbs repeatedly encourages the reader to consider the Lord’s role in one’s decisions. Several things can be said about the Lord’s role in one’s decisions. However, it is important to note that in all of these things the theme of God’s sovereignty is constantly present.

The first thing to which Proverbs alerts the reader, is that the Lord is the one who gives approval to your plans. He is the One who answers. Prov. 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” This verse brings the reader face to face with the reality that while he may seek wise counsel and make good plans, it is ultimately the Lord who determines the outcome (cf. Prov. 16:33)

Second, Proverbs also emphasizes God’s role as the Judge of one’s motives. Prov. 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit” (cf. 17:3; 21:2). The Lord sees both what we do and why we do it. Not only does this verse speak of God’s sovereignty, but it also implies that an individual should be suspicious about his motives. In that way, this verse echoes the declaration of the prophet Jeremiah about the wickedness of the heart of man (Jer. 17:9). This is also a good time to remind ourselves of what Gospel-driven motives look like. In the Gospel, we do things out of a love for the Lord, not to exalt ourselves or in an attempt to manipulate Him.

Third, Proverbs notes that, in the end, God’s plans are what will prevail. Prov. 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (cf. 21:30-31). We are forcefully reminded that no plan of man can possibly upset the designs of God for this world. The LORD reigns! Practically, this should do at least two things for us:

  1. Inspire confidence in believers as we face an uncertain future.
  2. It should also encourage the believer to ask whether his plans are in line with those of the Lord.

How is the reader to respond to God’s sovereign role in the decision making process? Proverbs gives instruction here as well.  First, we must trust in the Lord rather than our own wisdom. Prov. 3:5-6 says, “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.” Prov. 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”The Hebrew word translated “commit” (galal) properly means “to roll.” This is a colorful way of saying that we should give the burden and weight of our plans to Him. The emphasis is placed on depending on God in the things you do.

Second, we must respond in humility to our limited knowledge. Prov. 27:1 reminds us of the reality of unforeseen events. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”Prov. 20:24 says, “A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” This is an acknowledgment that sometimes we are just clueless about how God is working in our lives. Sometimes even the best of plans don’t go the way we expected and we are left wondering, what in the world is God doing? This is why the trust is so important.

Decision-making is a rich subject in the Proverbs. It overlaps with many other themes, from friendship to God’s sovereignty. Yet, Proverbs clearly emphasizes at least three main ingredients in making wise decisions: advice, planning, and submitting to the Lord. If one is going to make wise decisions that honor the Lord, none of these things can be neglected.