Lean and Mean

“ . . .lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5b)

Done much leaning lately?

Webster’s New World Dictionary, 4th Edition, tells us that to lean means to bend the body so as to rest part of one’s weight on something; to rely (on or upon); or to tend (toward or to something).

Why lean?

To take a load off. Physically, if you just sprained your ankle or have cranky legs and knees like Cynthia Rylant’s character, Mr. Putter. Emotionally, when you need advice for a challenging situation, or simply for comfort, like snuggling up to watch TV.

When you lean on something, you want to make sure it will hold you up.

Ever been let down? By a weak chair? By a friend?

Solomon reminds us what not to lean upon: our own understanding. Why? Several reasons:

  • Our understanding is incomplete. We can’t see the whole picture the way God does. Paul says in I Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
  • Our understanding is tainted by sin. It tends or leans towards evil. Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”(Jeremiah 17:9) Leaning on our own understanding is like the toddler playing hide and seek who covers his own eyes and thinks you can’t see him.

If we lean against something to take a load off, leaning on ourselves adds to the burden. It requires us to be right and to be in control and, often, that’s not the case. When you see it in print–lean on ourselves–it just doesn’t make sense.


On what things do you lean?

To rest against? To rely upon? To tend towards? Why do you lean?

Examine your responses. Can these things take the weight you are putting on them?

When have you leaned on your own understanding rather than on God’s?

How did that work?

Why do we have a tendency to lean on ourselves?

Is it hard to accept God’s word regarding our heart and our level of wisdom?

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