A lot of Christians love this verse. We love it because we think it means that we can have whatever we want as long as we share our plans with the Lord:
"Share your plans with the LORD, and you will succeed."(Contemporary English Version)
If we ask God to bless our plans, all will be well:
"Ask the LORD to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out. " (Good New Translation).
But what is this verse really saying? What does it mean for us today?
To get to the true meaning let’s look at a few Hebrew translations. I have put the English word, then the original Hebrew word and other translations. I will only include other meanings that could have been applied in the context of this verse:
Commit: gâlal meaning to roll (literally or figuratively); commit, roll (away, down, together), trust.
Works: maʻăseh meaning an action (good or bad); activity; labor, occupation, work, workmanship.
Established: kûwn meaning to set up, establish
Thoughts: machăshâbâh, or machăshebeth meaning plan (whether bad, or good), imagination, purpose, thought.
Now let’s look at a few word meanings in an English dictionary. We’ll be using the Oxford dictionary:
Commit: plead or dedicate (oneself)
Work: use of energy; mental or physical effort to a purpose
Thought: way of thinking
Establish: set up on a permanent basis
Okay, now that we’ve got the hard part out of the way, let’s look at a paraphrase of the verse using the definitions above:
Pledge or dedicate your use of energy, mental and physical effort to the Lord, and your way of thinking and intentions will be set up on a permanent basis.
I don’t know about you, but I would not want some of my intentions and thoughts to be made permanent. There are negative mindsets that I’m still trying to overcome. Can you imagine if a prayer would result in these ideologies becoming permanent?
Thank God that’s not what this verse is saying!
Instead, God wants his people to spend their time and their energies pursuing him. When we do that he will change us from the inside out. He changes our sinful, earthly desires and replaces them with what he wants for us.
Our desires become God’s desires and then, only then will we be the things that we crave.
As a note: a proverb is not a promise. Rather it exposes a principle that is generally true but to which there are exceptions. When studying a proverb check if the concept or principle is repeated in scripture.
In the case of this proverb we see the principle repeated in Psalms 37:4. The psalmist says, “Commit your way to the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Share your thoughts on the meaning of Proverbs 16:3. How does it apply to us today?