The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
Man is not an animal, and he is not like any animal. God Jehovah, Creator of heaven and earth, put something in man that makes him very different. God gave man a conscience, and this conscience is a law, teacher, and judge for each man, woman, and child.
Your conscience is the candle of the LORD. This light from God inside you examines and judges your thoughts, words, and deeds. Man makes choices by more than instincts, for God gave every conscious person a conscience to help him know and do what is right.
The word conscience has two parts: con (with) + science (knowledge) = knowing within yourself about yourself. This invisible spirit inside you has a sense of right and wrong, and it will approve right things and condemn wrong things you do. It will also reflect on what others do and make judgments as to whether they are right or wrong.
Consider how you can have a thought within yourself and yet analyze and judge that thought as well. A man can only know himself by his conscience; he cannot know another person by it (I Cor 2:11). Sometimes your spirit is full of joy, and sometimes it is full of sadness, and no other person can fully feel or know your emotions (Pr 14:10).
Your belly in this proverb is metonymy for your heart and mind. It is a figure of speech that uses a part of the body to refer to what goes on there. When you are moved by love or fear, you can feel it in your belly. When it is love, you may say, “My stomach flipped.” When it is fear, you may say, “I am sick with fear.” According to the proverb, your conscience examines your entire inner person to help direct your choices in things.
Your conscience can convict you that what you or others have thought, said, or done is wrong (Rom 2:15). This internal sense of guilt can be very strong, and it can control or influence what you do or not do. The accusers of the woman taken in adultery left her alone, when their consciences were confronted about the justice of their actions (Jn 8:9).
How did you get a conscience? The LORD gave it to you, so it is called the candle of the LORD. It is a light from God to help you make decisions. It also proves your sinfulness, for you have sinned against your conscience many times. Even if God has not condemned an action, it is sin for you, if your conscience condemns it (Rom 14:22-23; Jas 4:17).
All men have a conscience. Gentiles, reprobates, and the Pharisees had consciences, though hard to believe (Rom 2:15; 1:32; John 8:9). Amnon and Judas Iscariot had consciences (II Sam 13:1-2; Matt 27:3-5). The universal restraint and godly laws of men reflect this conscience, though their sorrow for sin is not godly sorrow (II Cor 7:9-11). A conscience in an unregenerate man is simply one more source of condemnation for him.
God has revealed Himself to all men in the natural creation. David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1). Paul wrote that though God Himself is invisible, the things He created can be seen, and they prove to men that God exists with eternal power and Godhead, so mankind is without excuse. God also declares His existence in the consciences of men, which is His candle giving them some knowledge about Him.
Great men and women have strong consciences, and they obey them. A strong conscience is one that is well taught and active in assessing all parts of life, and great men listen to it and obey it. Such persons are very sensitive to doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. They are very opinionated against evil. God gave you a conscience to be a daily companion to keep you doing right things and hating wrong things. Strengthen it. Use it.
You must teach your conscience the truth and wisdom of God, and you must obey it when it tells you to do certain things and when it says other things are wrong. God gave you this candle to help make you great, but the sinful world around you tries to silence your conscience so you will approve all they want to do. You must not allow worldly lifestyles, presented to you by various media, to corrupt or numb your conscience.
Your conscience can and must be taught. The more you learn, the better your conscience will serve you. If you learn God’s wisdom by these proverbs and the rest of scripture, your conscience will help you more (I Cor 8:1-7). You can even keep your conscience ignorant to stop it from condemning you in things that God allows (I Cor 10:25-27).
In some societies women lived bare-breasted. Their consciences about it were formed by habit and tradition to see no wrong in it. They were amused or offended by any objection to it. Only careful teaching could put shame in their consciences about the practice. Now, think carefully about what your children see at home, on the television, or at school.
Your conscience must be taught. In order for you to please God, you need a conscience that knows the will of God and will seek to enforce it in your life. This conscience that loves truth and wisdom only exists in born again children of God, and yet it needs the instruction of God’s word to form its opinions properly on most every subject (Heb 5:14).
Your conscience must be obeyed. If you ignore it, then it becomes calloused, cauterized, and less sensitive to things, leaving you vulnerable to most any temptation (I Tim 4:2; Eph 4:19). If you reject God and His word, He can and will blind your conscience, leaving you without the candle of the LORD to direct you (Rom 1:21-28; II Cor 4:2-4).
Do you appreciate your conscience from God? Self-examination, a duty of true Christians, is done partly by the conscience (Ps 26:2; 139:23-24). It could have saved the Corinthians from judgment (I Cor 11:28-31). Do you meditate with your own heart at night (Ps 4:4; 16:7)? Do you let the preaching of God’s word convict you (Ps 73:17,21)? The confidence of a pure conscience is a wonderful and powerful thing (Pr 28:1).
Your conscience should always consider others (I Cor 10:28-33). Paul lived virtuously to avoid offending his conscience toward God or men (Acts 24:16). Such conscientiousness toward God will help you fulfill the first commandment to love God, and toward others it will help you keep the second commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.
Your great goal is to grow in favor with God and men (Pr 3:1-4; Luke 2:52). Your goal is to be perfect. Your conscience can help you achieve these goals by accusing you for wrongdoing and excusing your right choices. Paul kept a good conscience at all times (II Cor 1:12; Heb 13:18), and he required it of Timothy and deacons (I Tim 1:5,19; 3:9).
One of the first acts of obedience to God is baptism, which the Bible calls the answer of a good conscience toward God (I Pet 3:21). (Infants, which do not have active consciences, were never baptized in the New Testament.) Before hearing the gospel, a regenerated man has a defiled conscience, knowing he is a sinner and deserves God’s wrath. But the gospel tells him that Jesus Christ paid for his sins, which gives him a guilt-free conscience, which pushes him to thank God for his merciful grace (Heb 9:14; 10:19-22).
Your conscience should approve or accuse you right now. If you have been living a godly and righteous life, your conscience should approve you for following this proverb. If you have been living a foolish or worldly life, often violating your conscience, then it should accuse you of wrongdoing. What will you do with this candle of the LORD? Ask God to revive it inside you (Ps 51:10), and carefully use it to guide your choices to please Him.