The closing words in the book of Judges always make me wince: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Groan. You know that kind of thinking leads to serious trouble—it did then, and it does now.
Whenever we take our focus away from God’s wisdom, it’s easy to start looking in the wrong direction, convincing ourselves we know what’s best.
We say things like…
- “It’s my life. Don’t I deserve to be happy?”
- “Look, this _______ I enjoy isn’t that bad for me.”
- “At least I haven’t broken one of the Ten Commandments!”
Alas, I’ve used all those excuses and then some. This week’s verse from Proverbs may not be my personal favorite (ouch! eek!), but it’s definitely one I need to consider.
A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2
A person may think…
Some translations say “man” (ESV), but clearly this is an equal-opportunity challenge for “everyone” (VOICE), male or female, old or young.
In fact, some scholars use a more pointed approach—“You may believe” (NCV)—to help us get the message: Don’t look at other people. Look in the mirror.
I like this version—“We may think” (CEV)—since that’s how it really is. We’re all guilty of filtering what’s right and wrong through our “own view” (CJB), our “own eyes” (ASV).
What looks straightforward to us may look very crooked to the Lord.
…their own ways are right,…
From our viewpoint, our “path is straight” (CEB), so we tell ourselves we’re “doing the right thing” (CEV). But the more we have to convince ourselves and “justify our every deed” (TLB), the more likely we’re doing something wrong.
When it comes to judging ourselves and our actions, we’re hardly an uninterested party. We’re partial. We want to look good, do good, be good.
But if our path doesn’t line up with God’s Word, then it’s not yashar—Hebrew for “straight” or “right.” Before long we may find ourselves wandering down a dark alley we never meant to explore.
You know how much I love this word.
Especially when what comes next is the Lord.
Whatever we may think is right, God calls us to “remember” (GNT) that his opinion is the one that truly matters.
In the words of Jesus, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts” (Luke 16:15).
Yes, he does.
…the Lord weighs…
If the word weigh makes you nervous, God also “examines” (NLT), “evaluates” (HCSB), and “judges” (ERV). He has every right to do so because he loves us unconditionally and sacrificially, and because we’ve pledged our lives to him.
God “always knows what is in our hearts” (CEV). He’s fully aware of what he’ll find there. And there’s no point trying to mask our true intentions. Our hearts are ever on display for his inspection.
Not our literal hearts, beating in our chests, but our spiritual hearts, hidden to all but the Lord. He knows the “motives” (TLB) and “reasons” (NCV) behind our thoughts, words, and actions.
Count on God to speak up anytime we’re doing something that’s just plain wrong.
For years, when I passed beggars on the street, I looked the other way, telling myself that if I gave them money, they would waste it on alcohol or drugs or worse.
Nice try, Liz. The ugly truth was, you didn’t want to part with your cash.
And you didn’t think the person deserved it.
Just looking at my twisted way of thinking makes me ill. God finally got my attention with words that pierced my heart like arrows: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45).
Oh, Jesus. Was that you? Standing outside the grocery store, hunger in your eyes?
Can you forgive me?
He can and he does. Thanks be to God.
Here’s what I’m learning: He wants us to love, not judge. To meet people’s gaze, not look away. To be generous, not selfish. To say, “This is a gift from the Lord,” because it is. To trust God with how the money is spent, and give without regret.
Heavenly Father, renew our minds and reshape our motives. Make our crooked paths straight. Teach our hearts to beat with yours.
Now it’s your turn
- What has the Lord been teaching you this week?
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Blessings to you this summer day (or winter day, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere). I love gathering around God’s Word with you here!
Your sister, Liz