Proverbs 10:27 states, “The fear of the LORD adds length to life, / but the years of the wicked are cut short.” We know that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but how does that relate to a longer life?
First, it should be noted that, like all proverbs, Proverbs 10:27 is a general principle and not a promise. In other words, there are some people who fear the Lord and die young, and there are some people who have no fear of God and live long lives. However, the proverb simply observes that those who fear God generally live longer than those who do not.
There are two aspects involved in the explanation of this life principle. The first half of the proverb says that those who fear the Lord live longer lives. What is the best explanation for this statement? Those who live in fear of the Lord—those who have godly wisdom—will avoid sinful, reckless actions that can shorten one’s life. They will also practice wholesome, beneficial actions that are conducive to longer life.
The fear of God may add length to life by causing one to avoid violent activities, to refrain from unhealthy eating, to abstain from illicit sex, and to say no to harmful drugs and other addictive things. Having the fear of God also promotes a greater level of self-control and personal responsibility, resulting in a lifestyle of working hard to provide for daily needs and regular sleep to maintain long-term health. Relationally, a person who fears God will regularly spend time in prayer, develop godly relationships, and seek to live in harmony with family members and friends, resulting in a lower stress level and the lifestyle benefits that come with that.
The second half of the proverb completes the antithetical parallelism of the verse: the years of the wicked will be cut short. So, the godly person (who fears the Lord) will likely live longer, and, conversely, the wicked (who do not fear the Lord) will likely live a shorter life. Why? The ungodly person is more likely to continue unhealthy patterns that can include overeating, sexual promiscuity, addictions to alcohol or drugs, lack of exercise and hard work, involvement in fighting, or stressful relationship problems. Because of the wicked person’s lack of wisdom, he will be more likely to repeat mistakes that lead to negative consequences resulting in an earlier death. A reckless lifestyle will increase the probability of living fewer years.
While Christians often overlook the relationship between their faith and personal health, this proverb highlights this important connection. We are to glorify God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). This can include everything from sexual purity to how we eat, drink, exercise, and sleep. The Christian who fears God and applies His wisdom to these areas of life will more likely enjoy a longer lifespan than those who do not.