Thoughts on Proverbs 16

Table of Contents

How we talk to others and conduct ourselves, even in the confines of our heart, makes a huge difference in our lives. Here are some verses to ponder and get rooted deep in our soul.

Proverbs 16:3

Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

  • To commit is to pledge, devote or dedicate.
  • Your works are your labors, your undertakings or pursuits.
  • Plans are your thoughts, imaginations, your purposes.
  • Established is like saying they will be firm, stable or enduring.

When we commit or devote our pursuits or work to God, he makes them stable and enduring. He establishes them.

Proverbs 16:6

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

  • Steadfast love and faithfulness can be viewed here as that which comes from God, who covers our sin, and also our steadfast love towards God, which sets our heart in a right mode to receive his pardon for our wrong doing.
  • Iniquity is sin; it’s when we are guilty of doing wrong.
  • When something is atoned for it is pardoned, covered over legally.
  • The writer is saying that when we are truthful and steadfast our sin-debt is covered by God, and when we have a healthy reverence for God, we will turn from evil.

Proverbs 16:9

A person plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.

We must rely on the Lord to establish and make us successful in our endeavors. It’s not that we don’t plan, work hard, or pursue a course of action. But we should always remember that we are to count on and acknowledge that it is God who works it out.

Proverbs 16:16

How much better it is to acquire wisdom than gold; to acquire understanding is more desirable than silver.

What is wisdom and understanding from God’s perspective? Well wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. It’s common sense or good judgment. So how do we get wisdom? Earlier in Proverbs, the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So that’s the first step. We must have first and foremost a healthy fear of the Lord.

When we fear the Lord, it’s not saying that we are afraid of God, though there is certainly an element of his character that should cause fear in that regard. God is so holy and pure and powerful. Even whenever his angels would appear before men in the Bible, the first thing they’d tell the human was “fear not,” because there is an element of fear that accompanies even his angels. 

But that’s not the complete meaning of “fear” in this instance. The fear of God also includes deep respect and reverence, which is a feeling of profound awe and often love. In other words, we need to really think about who God is. He is the creator of the vastness that is the universe all the way down to the intricacies that make up the human body, the ecosystem, the atom. He is the one that is so far above our understanding that what we might view as unfair, he knows how it all fits. His love is so beyond our capabilities that he is the one that reached out to humanity to offer a way for us to have not only a relationship with him, which is the true, deepest longing of the human heart (to be right with its creator), but in that relationship through our Lord Jesus, to be able to live forever beyond this brief 70-90 years on earth. When we really step back to consider all that God is, we begin to have a proper sense of awe and profound respect for him. That’s the fear of God. 

Is there an aspect of God that causes us to be afraid? Certainly. We should never take him lightly or think that we can disobey his words without consequences. We should fear falling under his wrath and judgment. At the same time, we should also come to him confidently and boldly because Jesus made a way for us to approach him as a child approaches a father, knowing that there is love and security in the father’s arms.

But back to wisdom. If you read through Proverbs, you find that it’s mentioned a lot. In fact, not only does Proverbs speak a lot about wisdom and how important it is, so does Psalms and other places. Wisdom is such a key component to our lives as followers of Jesus. And we need to pursue it. That’s why this verse says that it’s better to acquire wisdom than gold.

What about understanding? Well Proverbs 9:10 speaks to that as well. It says that “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We need to pursue understanding more than earthly riches and in this context knowledge of God is equated with understanding. 

It sounds so simple yet it seems so hard to learn about God. We get distracted, think the Bible is hard to understand or not relevant to our modern, sophisticated lives. Yet if we will take the time to do the basic things like read a chapter in Proverbs a day for a month, memorize key verses, and spend time in prayer with God, we will acquire knowledge of God and that is true understanding. If we will do these things: seek wisdom and acquire understanding in the sense that this verse means, we will be better equipped to properly utilize the “gold and silver”, the earthly riches that God entrusts to us, and not get enamored by the world with all it’s glitz and deception. We will be able to then be “in the world but not of it,” as the Bible admonishes us to do.

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Pride is one of those tricky characteristics of the human heart that can really derail us. Pride exalts our self over others. It is a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority. 

When we have a haughty spirit we are blatantly and disdainfully proud. We will have and display an attitude of superiority and contempt for people or things perceived to be inferior.

This verse says that these things will cause us trouble. We need to combat and avoid them. And the only way to get “self” out of the way is to continually pump into our heads and heart the things that matter to God. The world likes to pump us full of things that promote self. Keep that in mind as you go through your day. Many times they are simply lies because they are attitudes that cause you to think that you deserve to be number one. But God warns you that this approach will cause you to stumble and fall.

Proverbs 16:19

It is better to be lowly in spirit with the afflicted than to share the spoils with the proud.

  • Lowly in spirit is the same as poor or of humble means
  • Afflicted is poor, weak, needy
  • Haughtiness and pride imply self confidence which produces carelessness and ultimately a fall or sliding.

It’s a paradox which those who are worldly cannot understand and will not subscribe to, that it is better to be poor and humble than to be rich and proud.

Proverbs 16:20 

The one who deals wisely in a matter will find success, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.

Wisdom and prudence gain respect and success (he who deals wisely in a matter), which is to suggest when we master our trade or craft make it clear that we understand what we do, that we are considerate in our dealings with others, and when we speak or write on a subject we do so pertinently. When we do these, we will have a good reputation and quite possibly experience earthly success as well.

But it is our devotion to God that will truly bring happiness. Those that “handle a matter wisely” if they are proud and lean on their own understanding, though they may find some good, yet will have no great satisfaction in it. But the one that trusts in the Lord and not his own wisdom “ happy is he”, and shall fare better in the end.

Proverbs 16:21

The one who is wise in heart is called discerning, and kind speech increases persuasiveness.

What does it mean to be wise in heart? A wise person can weigh a matter before speaking. They will know when to hold their tongue and when to speak. Moreover, when they do speak, they understand that kindness in the way and manner that they communicate, the way they “come across”, this adds to the effectiveness or persuasiveness of their message. It’s not that there is a desire and means for manipulation, rather that it’s nearly impossible to make our point or to impart some needed knowledge or understanding if we are unkind, harsh or critical, even if our motive is not.

Proverbs 16:22

Insight is like a life-giving fountain to the one who possesses it, but folly leads to the discipline of fools.

Insight can come from God providing it at a moment of need, or from us listening attentively and pondering the situation. That means we must talk less and listen more. If we do, we will have the ability to discern, to remain silent, to let it be enough to know a matter in our heart and not feel compelled to be sure everyone around knows as well.

However, when we exhibit folly or foolishness, it will end in our being disciplined by our authority.

Proverbs 16:23 

A wise person’s heart makes his speech wise and it adds persuasiveness to his words.

Much like verse 21 above, this speaks to the fact that it’s not just a matter of what we want to say but how we say it. The words we choose, our body language and countenance all influence our effectiveness. Often Hebrew texts use repetition to emphasize a point. When you see the same idea repeated in a chapter, it tells you that it’s important.

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

We would all much prefer to be talked to kindly rather than harshly. When we speak to others with pleasant words, we can not only have our point received more effectively, but we can also build in to the other person positively.

Proverbs 16:25

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.

This proverb cautions us to be mindful that we can easily deceive ourselves in those important matters of life by resting in that which seems right but is not really the case. It’s telling us not to practice self-delusion, to be impartial in self-examination and to guard our hearts.

There is a way that is seemingly fair. We think It seems right and we live with the notion or belief that things are as they should be, that our opinions and practices are good, and time will prove it.

We need to realize that the way of ignorance and carelessness, the way of worldliness and earthly-mindedness, the way of sensuality and flesh-pleasing, these seem right to those that walk in them. In much the same fashion, the way of hypocrisy in religion, external performances vs inward heart change, partial reformations, and blind zeal as opposed to informed belief; these things those who practice them imagine will bring them to heaven; they flatter themselves in their own eyes that all will be well when it’s all said and done.

But the truth is that their end is really fearful, and is a major mistake. For this is the way of death, eternal death. Their iniquity will certainly be their ruin, and they will perish with a lie in their right hand. Self-deceivers will prove in the end self-destroyers.

Proverbs 16:28 

A perverse person spreads dissension, and a gossip separates the closest friends.

Our words can be very damaging to the relationships we cherish most as well as to the broader community we’re a part of. When we spread rumors or say things hurtful or mean about others, we cause division and this proverb says that if we do that we are perverse. A perverse person is directed away from what is right or good. They are marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict. We should avoid this person and strive not to become this person

Proverbs 16:32

Better to be slow to anger than to be a mighty warrior, and one who controls his temper is better than one who captures a city.

It’s no accident that God chose to mention the necessity that we control our anger and what consequences we may incur if we do not learn to do so. Here is a sampling:

Proverbs 14:29 (NET)
The one who is slow to anger has great understanding, but the one who has a quick temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 15:18 (NET)
A quick-tempered person stirs up dissension, but one who is slow to anger calms a quarrel.

Proverbs 19:11 (NET)
A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Psalm 103:8 (NET)
The LORD is compassionate and merciful; he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.

James 1:19 (NET)
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Proverbs 25:28 (NET)
Like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his temper.

In our verse from Proverbs 16, he makes an interesting comparison. Why do you think he uses as the objects of comparison a warrior and the ability to capture a city? Perhaps it is because it takes the strength, tenacity and skill of a warrior to be slow to anger. A warrior trains so that when the fight comes and there is little time to think but only react, instinct will take over. A warrior studies the enemy so that there is understanding of how the enemy will attempt defeat. A warrior exercises so that there is sufficient endurance for the fight. 

We too must train ourselves by practicing positive self talk, constantly praying that God will sustain us, looking for ways to defuse our temper. We must study God’s word and have it deep in our hearts through repetition and memory. We need to understand our trigger points, what can set us off, as well as understand how Satan can work dissention in our relationships. And we need to practice spiritual discipline through daily time with God.

When we do these things, we are essentially as tough as a mighty warrior and will be able to be slow to anger.

The analogy continues that when we are able to control our temper, it’s like being able to capture a city. One might consider the difficult task of it as such as well as the possibility that the captured city is our own heart. To be able to control anger you have to prepare. That preparation occurs before the battle. If you wait until the fight begins, you will fail. But if you prepare, as a mighty warrior, and if you succeed in controlling your anger, you have in effect captured a city.

we have no self control, it affects so many areas of life. Likewise, when we learn to control what we say, how we say it, and the attitudes of our heart, it will have many positive effects in virtually every area of life.

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Jay Dyer

  • Jay Dyer is an author, comedian and TV presenter known for his deep analysis of Hollywood, geopolitics, and culture. His graduate work focused on psychological warfare and film and he is the author of two books, Esoteric Hollywood 1 & 2 and the co-creator and co-host of the television show Hollywood Decoded. He has been featured on numerous popular shows and podcasts and in debates with some of the world’s top debaters.

    He can be found at