Solomon offers quite a bit of counsel to encourage people not to be wise in their own eyes. One such warning is Proverbs 26:12, which says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Given the Bible’s description of fools as corrupt rebels prone to trouble, the warning not to be wise in one’s own eyes should be taken seriously.
Those who are wise in their own eyes are exhibiting the worst kind of foolishness. The pride of thinking he has all the answers blinds a person to reality. To be wise in one’s own eyes keeps him from seeking the counsel of the Lord and from seeking wisdom from those who truly do have some answers. Those who are wise in their own eyes are unteachable.
In Proverbs 3:7 Solomon instructs his son not to be wise in his own eyes, and he counteracts that type of pride with the instruction to “fear the Lord and shun evil.” When we are wise in our own eyes, we fail to have the proper fear of the Lord—the proper perspective of Him as the Sovereign Creator. When we fail to acknowledge Him, we fall into the path of evil. Solomon wants his son to avoid that error.
Elsewhere, Solomon says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15, ESV). And he notes that the tendency of the rich is to be wise in their own eyes, but a poor person who has understanding can judge rightly (Proverbs 28:11).
Solomon isn’t the only biblical author to critique a person’s being wise in his own eyes. Isaiah pronounces a judgment on those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight (Isaiah 5:21). This intellectual conceit is a form of pride, and the Bible has plenty to say about pride. James reminds his readers that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Those who are wise in their own eyes are not following God’s wisdom at all (see James 3:15–17). Paul instructs the Corinthians that true wisdom comes from God. God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world and is embodied in Jesus Christ; consequently, we boast not in ourselves but in God (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).
A prime example of people who were wise in their own eyes are the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They refused to heed Jesus’ instruction, thinking they had no need to be taught by a rustic rabbi from Galilee. Because of their willful blindness, they missed out on the kingdom of God. Jesus confronted them about their stubborn pride: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matthew 21:31–32). There was more hope for the “fools” who believed (the tax collectors and prostitutes) than for those who were wise in their own eyes (the chief priests and elders of the people).