“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” – Prov 19:2
You’ve heard “Think before you speak.” But what about “Think before you want”? I don’t know if that’s technically possible, but at a minimum, God wants us to be thinking while we want. We all have lots of wants. We are creatures of desire. Unlike Buddhism, the Bible’s advice isn’t to just kill all desires – to just cut them out of your life. God advises us to think about our desires. To direct and guide those desires, not merely act on them.
This is a hard word in any age, but particularly in our time. We get a lot of mixed messages. We’re taught that the way to discover your authentic self is to get better in touch with and to express your inmost desires. This has been dubbed “expressive individualism”. The only way for you to live a fully human and satisfied life is to search, all your life if need be, to discover your heart’s true desires, and then live those out.
“What? You say ‘That’s what you were doing, and it got you thrown in jail?’ Well, not those desires, obviously. Or those… and you’ve got to be careful with that one. The point is, you’ve got to find and follow the good desires.” So it appears as if our desires remain in the land of judgments and moral evaluations, after all, which is the point of this proverb.
Desire itself is not good. In fact, this proverb goes so far as to say that desire is not even neutral. Desire left without the guiding reins of knowledge – of how to apply and direct that desire – is evil. Tapping into a pure desire and shutting off your brain invariably gets you into trouble. Ever since the Fall, the natural inclinations of our heart continually tilt to the dark side (Gen 6:5).
Wisdom does not come from within. Nor will the lifestyle of liberating an “inner child” lead to lasting freedom. Wisdom and freedom are being fully engaged with life, keeping your eyes on the prize of what is really good (a close relationship with God), and using your desires as tools to pursue that end. The word for desire in this proverb could also be translated as soul – the point is the same. We have an inward engine that needs constant maintenance, fine-tuning, and upgrades in order for us to trust and follow it. God tells us to present our desires, along with every other part of ourselves to him as His servants, to be directed and satisfied in the ways He prescribes. (Rom 6:13)
Desire, by its very nature, whispers urgency. It tells us that the clock is ticking. What we need, we need now. In fact, we needed it a long time ago. However, the cry for immediate satisfaction is a sure hallmark of our sinful corruption manifested in our desires. When we make haste, we miss the way. Going quickly in the wrong way doesn’t help you get where you want. God has given us good desires. He has also given us an abundance of knowledge in His Word, prayer, and the wise counsel of others, in order to use our desires, rather than to be used by them.