What does Proverbs 14:30 mean?
ESV: A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
NIV: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
NASB: A tranquil heart is life to the body, But jealousy is rottenness to the bones.
CSB: A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.
NLT: A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.
KJV: A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
The Hebrew terms used here suggest a figure of speech; the meaning goes beyond the plain definition of the included words. In literal terms, the verse speaks of a "healthy heart" or a "healing heart" in contrast to "jealousy" or "passion." The results of these are contrasted as "life for the flesh" or "liveliness of the body" as opposed to "decay of the bones" or "rotting of the substance." English translations, then, frame this as the difference between having a contented spirit or a jealous one, both of which have an impact on one's physical health.
Medical research affirms what this verse teaches. A peaceful heart sets aside worry, stress, and anxiety—so far as that is possible. This contributes to a healthy life. Envy, jealousy, angst, and bitterness cause sickness. Envy acts like a cancer, consuming the envious person from the inside. Being content with what we have keeps the heart stable. Being stressed over what we don't have and envying those who have more than we may raise blood pressure, cause anxiety, ulcers, and mental and emotional stress.
Emotions affect our physical condition. Generally, those who obediently follow Jesus are prone to a healthy life. In part, this is due to avoiding sins which bring natural, physical consequences (Proverbs 13:14). It is also due to lessened anxiety and fear because they are at peace with God. Their conscience is clear, and if they commit their anxious moments to God, they enjoy the peace of God (1 Peter 5:7). Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to pray with thanksgiving. If we pray in this way, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7–8). Isaiah 26:3 says, "You [the Lord] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
Proverbs 14:15–35 continues Solomon's wise sayings, once again mostly contrasting the wicked and the upright. He points out that those who do evil, by rejecting God's wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) are foolish and have no security. Those who do God's will (Proverbs 3:5) are wise and have unfailing security.
This continues a series of literal "proverbs:" short statements of general-case wisdom. The first ten verses of this chapter contrast positive and negative traits related to work ethic, self-control, and seeking wisdom. Then come several verses contrasting the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked. The rest of this passage provides statements on a broad range of subjects.
Proverbs 14 continues King Solomon's wise sayings. In this chapter he discusses a variety of topics such as wisdom and folly, honesty and dishonesty, righteousness and evil, national security and national disgrace, personal security and destruction, the fear of the Lord, generosity, and wise servanthood. This series of astute comments will continue for several more chapters.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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