Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #29 Hidden Motives

June 2014 Your 50 Favorite Proverbs | Liz Curtis Higgs

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..." 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..." Proverbs 21:2

…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.

"...but..." Proverbs 21:2


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..." Proverbs 21:2

…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.

"...the heart." Proverbs 21:2

…the heart.

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.

Proverbs 21:2

Now it’s your turn

  • What has the Lord been teaching you this week?

Kindly take a moment to Post a Comment, using the link below. It means so much when you do!

Meanwhile, here’s your Printable of Proverbs 21:2 (give it just a few seconds to download). And do check out all our verses from Proverbs on Pinterest.

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
@LizCurtisHiggs #50Proverbs

Your sister, Liz Curtis Higgs BibleGatewayBloggerGrid Your 50 Favorite Proverbs | Liz Curtis Higgs

Love being part of (in)courage! I am honored to write for P31 Ministries

22 Responses to Your 50 Favorite Proverbs: #29 Hidden Motives

  1. Michele Morin June 26, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks for the reminder that our God sees us from the inside out.

  2. Aya Johnson June 26, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    This is so true and I wish that I could see things through God’s eyes in so many experiences in the past. Now I found the best guidance of my life. I want to read this every morning to start my day with God. This is my first time to visit and I am already a huge fan of yours. Thank you so much for your blog, Liz!!! God bless you.

  3. jaime June 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    So timely. My husband and I just had an experience with a family who had been begging at local shopping plazas lately. My husband didn’t want to give them anything. I told him we should. He had me park near them. He got out, walked to them and gave them some money. He also shared some scripture with them. We haven’t seen them since. I pray they got their lives together. Matthew does come to mind in these situations but more than just Matthew, I think we are meant to never waste an opportunity to share His Word. The money was secondary. God puts people in our paths for a reason. Don’t waste the opportunities. That was my lesson.

  4. Susan June 26, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    I, too, have not given money to people on the streets and balked at my husband on two different occasions after he filled gas tanks when asked. Thank you for the reminder to that God knew my heart in those situations and to trust in His power to control the situations.

  5. phyllis June 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    this week I have learned that if I don’t truly give things to Father Things that need to change will not change. He knows if I really mean business with him or not.
    I want to cooperate with him and get self out of the way. Thanks for this verse Ms. Liz. You and the other ladies who post are a blessing. 🙂

  6. Diane McElwain June 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Oh, this is good! Some great reminders for me today. Thanks Liz.

  7. Nancy OConnell June 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Very inspiring ,I love your blog!

  8. Phyllis June 26, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    This week God is teaching me to put HIM first. To let HIM lead me. Not the other way around. He’s also telling me that it is not enough to speak the words of love to my husband but to show and prove my love through actions. Yesterday was a 6 page day in my journal to get it all down. The dialogue was amazing and I got to share it with my daughter-in-law on our walk last night. God is good….ALL the time!!!

  9. Diane June 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    This is exactly what I am working toward to love, not judge, be generous, not selfish, so others will see Jesus in me. Love your writings Liz, you are an AWESOME women of God!!

  10. Veronica June 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    This week God has been encouraging me to humble myself before him so as he can lift me up. A steep learning curve for me as I have always strove to mask my true feelings and never let others know or see who I really am or how I feel. By allowing myself to be humbled has opened my heart to receiving the love of God has shown by his children here on earth.

  11. Lawan Rivera June 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    Wow Liz, that was painful! I love your commentary. You are awesome. Love reading your stuff. I’m definately sharing this. Thank you!


  12. Judy Fairservice June 26, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    I am so appreciating your comments on our favourite Proverbs Liz. Today’s one is needed. A good reminder to me to be aware of needy people when I am at the Mall. I do share money with people as I have opportunity. I notice the elderly people on pensions and try to encourage and help them. Especially on the day before pension day, when their purse is nearly empty.
    There are so many needs in our society that I I like the idea of asking The Lord to lead me to the one or two people who need help. I do have a question though. How much money makes a meaningful gift.? Can you help?

  13. Judy Fairservice June 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    I also appreciate Ann Voskamp’s blog , ‘A Holy Experience’. Very inspiring and helpful. Ann sends her blog daily with photos. Ideal for everyone and especially for busy mums and families.

  14. Susan June 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    Liz, this lesson is deep. I have always given to people on the street, bought up McDonald lunches and taken my kids to the other side of town to hand them out , so as to teach them how to give. I have been ridiculed and told these people are just faking and they make alot of money walking the street. Maybe so ? but I have always thought what if that was me , I would want people to help me. One day I met this man online from another country, I was lied too and told he was in a muslim prison in Jos, Nigeria and he was originally from America, the story is long , so can not tell it all. It was so real, it ended up being a big ring in America who were behing this, they stole Fed-x papers and files , a employee with a forestry department was involved. I gave 30,000 dollars thinking I was saving this mans life, as I would hear bullets and terrible conversations, the police told me that they are professionals and have fooled many men and women throughout the world. We call them Yahoo boys, Nigeria calls them dirt devils. I have never been the same, my money is gone. I forgave them and gave to God to deal with them. I still give , but my advice is pray, pray ,pray and ask for divine direction. God knows my heart and your heart and he will make everything ok.

  15. Linda H June 27, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    I am so blessed to be reminded that God knows my heart and that is what matters. People can misunderstand our motives, but it is God’s ways that should matter. I had cataract surgery this week and what an amazing transformation of seeing clearer so many things I haven’t seen in a long time. I feel like God has been reminding to “see” and seek more clearly His ways, not mine. No more excuses now as I can see clearly the path before me!! Thanks Liz for your amazing gift of bringing God’s truth to us!!

  16. jenn June 27, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Wow! A good reminder….even when I’m doing my “good things” for my church, He still sees my heart. Yikes indeed!

  17. Victoria June 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    I finished reading Bad Girls of the Bible yesterday and I really liked the last chapter about the sinful woman who’s actions spoke louder than her words. I learned that I don’t always need to do the talking, but showing people that I love them is better. I’ve also been reading in Proverbs and one thing that always sticks out to me is be humble. That’s something I need to work on. Not yearning for attention but helping other people.The thing that stuck out most from #29 is that if we really need to convince ourselves, we probably aren’t doing the right thing. I really enjoy your books Lizzie!

  18. Karen June 28, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    Thank you Liz for this very timely reminder!
    I’ve suffered from terrible headaches for most of my adult life, but recently they’ve been making me sick so I decided to see if a massage would help (they are due to stress!). My hairdresser recommended a local salon so I booked and went yesterday. The massage was great, BUT the lady was a Reiki healer too. I felt really uncomfortable about this, but tried to tell myself it was ok as she wasn’t a fortune teller or anything, and she was a nice lady. Ha, me deciding what was right again!
    Anyway, I’ve spent a sleepless night worrying about wether I’ve sinned by going ahead with the massage, and woke up early with another headache! I’ve prayed a sorry please forgive me prayer, then got up to read your wise words! It’s almost like God has replied to me through you!
    Thank you Liz x

  19. Marsha Numerich June 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    My story goes back a few months. You see I thought I was doing God’s will in carrying out my position at work. I am an in home caregiver. Caring for seniors in their own homes provides them a way to stay in that home. I was working anywhere from 30-60 hours per week. I felt this was the gifting God had given me.
    Then in December 2013 I began having trouble walking, I would go for a while and then my leg would go out on me. This was followed by an MRI of my spine which showed a protruding disc in my spine – in February I was told I would be having back surgery. I didn’t understand – if caring for seniors was the gift God had given me, and if I was to carry out that gifting, why would He allow me to have back problems that took me away from that work (at least temporarily).
    Well. . . He showed me why. Yes that is my gifting, but in putting so many hours into it I was taking time away that He wanted to spend with me, that He wanted me to spend with my family, and that He wanted to use me to touch other lives. I say it is when we are down on our backs, healing, He meets us and shows us through His Word and words exactly what His plan is for us.
    I needed to come to a complete halt of me so that He could fill in the time with Him. I praise Him for it daily. My marriage has become what it was originally meant to be, and He blesses me daily with opportunities to reach out to others. I have not as of yet returned to work, but when I do I now know what His plan and direction is.

  20. Ginny Campbell June 28, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    My Lord knows my heart and loves me anyway! Now that is mercy galore!! Oh to be less judgmental and more forgiving………..sharing the mercy He showers on me. I know what is right but this all too human self does not always choose right. But He loves me still. His desire for me is to grow more like Him….that is my prayer. Thanks, Liz, for helping me focus on my thoughts and actions.

  21. Agnes Butler (widow of Ben Butler) July 1, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I was raised by the family proverb for women: “PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES!” I figured I was pretty ugly physically to be reminded I had to be pretty inside! Now that I am a grandma and great grandma, I understand this much better. I keep trying to be more like Jesus! Thanks Liz, I don’t always comment; however, I do read and apply your messages. I plan to share your Parables for children with our little growing “Lily”! (3 months old) God Bless!

  22. Regina July 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    One of the great things about growing up in church is having a treasury of verses set to song that bubble up to the surface of my mind when I need them most. This one has been on repeat in my mind lately:

    The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down. For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. Psalm 37:23

    What a great promise and reminder right? And I honestly think that delight goes both ways: God delights and sings over us, and when we are in the middle of what he’s doing, we’re delighting in him.

    The best part is, perfection is not required. We stumble, we hiccup, we sometimes hobble through, but this verse says that wobbles or falls or missed opportunities are not a disqualification. No matter how bad/guilty/disappointed we might feel, we are not cast down, thrown out, or given up on. The Lord upholds us with his righteous right hand.

    More than I would like to admit, I struggle with feelings of guilt and underachievement. (Especially when I’m feeling particularly fallible, or simply…uninteresting.) But with that verse on musical repeat, his still small voice has been faithfully reminding me that his delight isn’t contingent on my successes or achievements. He loves me just as I am. Not for what I’ve done or haven’t done. Not for my past victories, or in spite of my past failures. He just loves me. More than that. He delights in this journey we are sharing together.

    Remembering that restores my joy too.