Trust in Proverbs

Trust is a curious thing. At its core, it is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something else. It is predictive in nature – you can know the future because you trust the outcome from that person, process or event. Trust takes years to develop and a few seconds to destroy. Trust reveals the quality of the relationship between you and the other person or event.

Proverbs has significant teaching on trust – to whom we give it and how it can harm or benefit us. Like the other articles in this series, we’ll look at each verse where the word “trust” occurs and see what we can learn. Along the way, we’ll apply it to business ownership and leadership.

Proverbs 3.5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs starts its teaching about trust by pointing us to God: We can fully trust in the Lord because His understanding is higher and better than ours. Moreover, when we submit to Him, He has the power and authority to make our paths straight. Trust is relational too: “with all your heart” – there is visceral part of our being that is involved. We have developed a deep relationship with God and can trust Him to act in accordance with His character and personality. We have taken the plunge – we have no plan B – there’s just trust in God. Yes there is danger, but with the very core of our being, we trust God – not ourselves, not our money, not our status, not our insurance, not our businesses – we trust God.

This is where planning and trust must be balanced. Proverbs teaches us to plan and while we can have confidence in our plans, our trust needs to be in God and when He sees that we trust Him viscerally, He then makes our paths straight. Our own understanding – our own knowledge, by itself, will lead us astray. This is because all of life always has a spiritual, unseen component that, if not taken into consideration, will cause us to make decisions without the right matrix of information.

Most business leaders I have met place more trust in their own selves and their plans than they do in God. Many Christian Business Owners will make decisions about spending, expansion, compensation, partnerships and so forth without sitting down and asking God directly. They’ll ask for wisdom, guidance and direction, but they don’t ask directly “what decision should I make?” I personally feel this is due to them not knowing how to hear the voice of God. Once they learn how to do this, they are able to more fully live out Proverbs 3.5-6.

Proverbs 11.28

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf

In this verse, we are told not to trust in our riches or money because, if we do, we will fall. The reason we fail is because our trust has been misplaced and therefore, God cannot make our path straight. Trusting and/or loving money is one of the best ways to fall away from the Lord. Money comes and goes like a wisp in the wind. It is not a worthy object of trust – it is not reliable, it lacks stability and strength.

Today, there is much cash on the balance sheets of many businesses. They view their cash as their strength – perhaps along with their employees. People, cash, processes, intellectual property – these are the “strengths” of a business, or so the conventional wisdom says. The Bible says something different – our cash is not a strength. Now, it is a tool that can be used, but it is not a “strength”. It is something fools trust in and when it fails them, they fall.

Proverbs 16.20

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord

In this verse we learn that when we trust in the Lord, we are blessed. So, now we know that not only are our paths made straight when we trust in God, but His strait paths provide ongoing blessings to us.

In business, no matter how talented or successful we are, we need to heed instruction that comes our way. I would suggest we need to seek out wisdom and instruction (other part of Proverbs says as much). We can always learn and grow, both personally and professionally. In the long run, when someone stops growing – when they start coasting – that’s when they become irrelevant and outdated. And you can’t coast unless you trust in yourself.

Proverbs 21.22

One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust

It seems to me that the phrase “city of the mighty” is a bit tongue-in-cheek in that their “strongholds” in which they trust can be pulled down simply by being wise. This implies that these folks are fools and are trusting in that which is not trustworthy. On the surface, it will appear that they are might and strong, but if they are confronted with Biblical wisdom, that in which they trust will crumble – it will be “pulled down”.

In business, the strength of a company or a balance sheet can be talked about in terms of “this company has a lot of muscle” or “they have the resources to fight”. These types of phrases imply that they are strong and mighty. A Christian Business Owner should look at what they trust in: is it their cash balances? Their legal resources? Their experience? What does the Bible have to say about trusting these things? Wisdom is stronger, this verse tells us, than the strongholds of a mighty city.

Proverbs 23.4-5

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;

do not trust your own cleverness.

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,

for they will surely sprout wings

and fly off to the sky like an eagle

This is one of the clearest instructions on avoiding work-a-holism. It is sin to wear ourselves out to get rich – to chase money. Why? Because money vanishes faster than a wisp of air. It can fly off and leave you when you least expect it. We are told not to trust in our own cleverness (בִּינָה, literally someone who understands – this is the same Hebrew word used in Proverbs 3.5). We think we understand, but we really don’t. We think we’ve “got it”, but we really don’t. This verse teaches that if we think we can get rich simply by hard work over a sustained period of time, that we may achieve those riches – but then they will be gone – they will fly away and we’ll have to start over.

Two weeks ago, we learned about avoiding get-rich-quick schemes. Today we learn that if our main goal and motivation in working hard is to get rich, that we might very well make some money, but it won’t last, so don’t wear yourself out to get rich.

When you’re a business leader or own, the applications for this are obvious.

Proverbs 27.6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

but an enemy multiplies kisses

Wounds from a friend can be trusted because they are coming from your friend, who presumably is a wise and Godly person. When it comes to leading a business, you need to develop friends around you who can speak truth into your life as an owner and sometimes wound you in an effort to help you grow personally and professionally.

Proverbs 28.25

The greedy stir up conflict,

but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.

Those who chase money and wealth often create conflict. I worked with a guy who was in sales and he told me that the way he landed new customers was to watch and wait for his competition to sign new contracts with new customers, then he would go in a create swirl and conflict to the point where he’d walk out with a new contract. He enjoyed creating problems for his competition. He owns his own business now and continues to be greedy – chasing wealth as the ultimate goal in life. By contrast, the righteous who trust in the Lord prosper because A) they don’t stir up conflict, so their business relationships are better and B) God can bless them because they trust in him.

The word prosper (דשׁן) means to be fat, to grow fat, to be fertile, to have abundance. Hence, the writer is saying that when we trust in the Lord, we will be fertile and have abundance. We’ll be able to reproduce and the “soil” in which we work will result in abundance. This applies to our businesses. When we seek to fulfill God’s purposes for business instead of making profits out first goal, we will necessarily place our trust in the Lord and we will prosper as a result.

Proverbs 28.26

Those who trust in themselves are fools,

but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe

We considered this verse in our study of Fools in Proverbs. We learned that when we trust ourselves, we are fools (כְּסִיל, literally insolent; stupid, a person who lacks good judgment). We now can learn that not only is it unwise to place your trust in your wealth, but you’re a fool if you trust yourself as opposed to trusting in God. In business, be sure to place your trust in the Lord, even if you have top talent and a large bucket of cash on your balance sheet. You’ll be tempted to trust the latter, but you’re a fool if you do.

So, to summarize:

  1. We trust God because He is trustworthy
  2. The wisdom of God is stronger than the “strengths” of business
  3. Christian Business Owners and Leaders pay attention to instruction – they are coachable and teachable
  4. Christian Business Owners and Leaders take less profit and success in exchange for a healthy work/life balance
  5. Christian Business Owners and Leaders find their greatest success when they start their activities by trusting in God vs. chasing American success
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