In Proverbs 3, Solomon exhorts his son to trust in the Lord wholeheartedly. In verse 5 Solomon gives counsel regarding trusting the Lord instead of one’s own understanding, and in verse 7 he says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil” (NKJV). Those who are wise in their own eyes do not fear or trust the Lord. Instead, they think all they need is found within themselves.
To be wise in your own eyes means you think your understanding is best. You have it all figured out. You do not listen to advice, and you tend to live by the saying “it’s my way or the highway.” To be wise in your own eyes is to be, in your own estimation, self-reliant and self-sufficient, refusing even God’s help. It is a sign of pride, which Proverbs 16:18 warns goes before destruction. It is only a matter of time before the prideful person who is wise in his own eyes experiences destruction or falls into God’s judgment. The Bible calls a person who is wise in his own eyes a fool (Proverbs 12:15; Romans 1:22)—a big reason to not be wise in your own eyes.
Great sorrow awaits the one who is wise in his own eyes (Isaiah 5:21). The warning to not be wise in our own eyes is for our own benefit. The story of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 illustrates the folly of considering oneself full of wisdom and glory. King Nebuchadnezzar boasted of his mighty power and thought it was by his own wisdom and strength that he had built Babylon (verses 29–30). While the boast was still in his mouth, Nebuchadnezzar lost his senses, was driven away from society, and ate grass like an ox, just like God said would happen (verses 31–33). Nebuchadnezzar remained in that state until he acknowledged “that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes” (verse 25). Nebuchadnezzar learned a powerful lesson. After his sanity returned, the king proclaimed, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (verse 37).
It is wise to heed Scripture’s warnings: “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 26:12). Yet there is great hope for the one who returns to the Lord (Zechariah 9:12). We need to see ourselves as we are. This requires humility, which requires that we realize we are not God and recognize that everything we have is from God (1 Corinthians 4:7). We know that we are not wise in and of ourselves, and we trust in the One who actually is.
God gives wisdom through His Word and through His discipline. “Do not be wise in your own eyes” is not just a rule of etiquette or a personal improvement tip; it is a principle of godliness designed for our good. To those who are not wise in their own eyes and who choose to fear the Lord, there is a promise: “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:8).