Over a week ago, I wrote about a comparison between myself and the Old Testament Israel. In it, I quoted a Scripture that I thought summarized my adult life so far:
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12, NASB
The message here is so important that it bears repeating in Proverbs 16:25. The core truth here is that a man left to his own devices can sincerely believe he is doing right while being sincerely wrong. And the results are surely not what he intends. Consider the following bit of wisdom:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 12:15, NASB
Here we find Solomon once again noting that a man alone can feel completely in the right, and his description of the individual as a fool as opposed to the wise man indicates that his feeling of “right” is likely incorrect. As with much of the wisdom literature, though, Solomon offers a practical countermeasure. Get around some people who know more than you, have more experience, or simply have the potential to have insight you do not. Even the first Psalm offers similar advice.
Proverbs isn’t done yet, though.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.
Proverbs 16:2, NASB
As with the first verse, this is stated twice (albeit with slightly differently words) in Proverbs (Proverbs 21:2 to be specific). Once again, there’s the statement that a man believes his choices and actions are good. It’s noteworthy this time, though, that the language (particularly the “but” transition) indicates that the latter half of the verse is in opposition with the former. That is to say that a man can make decisions that seem to be right with the wrong motivation. It brings to mind 2 Corinthians 9:7, where Paul urges people to give because they want to rather than out of compulsion or with a grudge. After all, Paul affirmed, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
What’s in your heart matters. In fact, taking into consideration God’s words about David in 1 Samuel 16, Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6 and 10, or even His interactions with the Pharisees in Luke 6, it becomes clear that the why is at least as important as the what. God sees into our souls, knowing us better than we know ourselves.
There is hope, though:
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2, NASB
As creatures of free will, and as Christians under a sovereign Lord, we are not static. With an act of submission from us and an act of power on His part, we can change on the inside. So how do we do it? Once again, to reinforce the importance of this premise (I believe), the Bible repeats itself.
Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3, NASB
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalms 37:5, NASB
By no means do I have it all figured out. I’ve got a long, long way to go. Thankfully, I won’t be walking alone. I’m continually praying for Godly wisdom per James 1:5, but I’m also praying for Godly counsel (not, mind you, just “good advice” from well-meaning friends).