What does Proverbs 3:21 mean?
ESV: My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom and discretion,
NIV: My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion;
NASB: My son, see that they do not escape from your sight; Comply with sound wisdom and discretion,
CSB: Maintain sound wisdom and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them.
NLT: My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them,
KJV: My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
NKJV: My son, let them not depart from your eyes— Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
Verse Commentary:
Wisdom is a term already used frequently in Proverbs. In this book, it refers to an ability to apply godly knowledge. In prior verses, Solomon depicted wisdom as a woman (Proverbs 1:20; 3:14). True wisdom includes not just intellectual prowess but also correct moral judgment. In this verse "sound judgment" means victory or the success that results from having wisdom.

Here, the concept of discretion is applauded. In English, the word discretion implies making sound decisions, especially between options—it emphasizes an ability to separate between subtly different things. In Hebrew, the word is me-zim'māh', which includes many different ideas, including plotting, planning, and careful thought. Having the quality of discretion means carefully assessing how and when to act, or not, under circumstances that require it.

Joshua urged his generation to make the right decision, the one he had made. He said he and his house would serve the Lord, and he challenged the Israelites to choose whom they would serve. He said, "Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD…choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:14–15).

Christians, too, need the ability to make right decisions. We must refuse to let the world squeeze us into its mold and instead yield our body and mind to the Lord for the performance of His good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:1–2). That does not always come with easy, simple, clear choices—we often must use our own discretion (1 Corinthians 10:23; Romans 14:23).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 3:13–26 extols the virtue of wisdom. Solomon began this discussion in chapter 1, and explained in chapter 2 that the Lord gives wisdom to the upright. Now he describes as blessed the person who finds wisdom, and explains its benefits and applications. Wisdom, as used in this book, refers to the ability to apply godly knowledge. While not a guarantee someone will act accordingly, having a grasp of God's intent for our lives is immensely valuable.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter of Proverbs is addressed to Solomon's son. The term, ''my son'' occurs 15 times in chapters 1—7. The words may apply to one of Solomon's students in his court or to one of his biological sons. The application of wisdom in Proverbs 3 shows the benefits of trusting in the Lord with one's whole heart. Solomon credits obedience to and trust in God for longevity, success, guidance, health, reward that exceeds monetary wealth, enjoyment, peace, security, confidence, excellent human relationships, the Lord's blessing and favor, and honor. As with all ''proverbs,'' biblical or otherwise, their purpose is to impart general wisdom, not absolute prophecy. Like the original audience, modern readers are not expected to see these guidelines as absolute guarantees for any one person.
Chapter Context:
This passage lies in the second section of the book, found in chapters 1—9. The author, King Solomon, reigned over Israel from 971 to 931 BC. The first section of Proverbs, the preface, is found in Proverbs 1:1–7. The third section, chapters 10—22, were also written by Solomon. These proverbs were likely written by Solomon in his middle years, whereas he probably wrote Song of Songs in his early adulthood, and Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. As in the first two chapters, wisdom is stressed in Proverbs 3.
Book Summary:
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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