All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motive. (Pro 16:2)

I suppose the first part of this Proverb is no surprise. Every way that we chose to take and act on it we always have a good reason to do it. Even if we make a bad decision we can find ourselves justifying or rationalizing our decisions and the choices we make to avoid embarrassment or criticism. Even when we know in our own conscience when something we are doing is not quite right we can think around that dilemma to keep things moving the way we want. Because we are imprinted with imago dei (image of God) we all battle with right and wrong. For most of us we change that paradigm to be what is right in the Lord’s eyes to: “what can I get away with?” In a culture where one of our greatest values is tolerance, the first part of this verse could easily become the slogan for our lives.

But the second part of the verse changes the paradigm completely. The Lord, with whom we must give an account, weighs the motives of our heart.  In a recent discussion in a class I was teaching we were dealing with the issue of sin. One person made a great observation that: even if we have bad stuff that we think about, isn’t the issue whether we act on it or not? But this verse says that the real evaluation comes not from what I can justify but what is “clean” in the eyes of the Lord. God examines the motives by which we do things even above what we do. The One who gives the final evaluation of what we do is the Lord. Notice the other verses in this text that surround this verse:

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established. The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil. When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Pro 16:1-7 NAS)

All these show the distinction between how a person thinks and justifies what he or she commits to doing and the ultimate revelation that God is the one who needs to guide and direct our pathways.  This is a great picture of how we are to live. If we work backwards through the text we can glean some principles in how we are to live before the Lord:

  • Live a life pleasing to the Lord (7)
  • Live fearing the Lord (6b) and live according to His lovingkindness and truth (6)
  • The Lord has made us for a purpose (4)
  • Commit your works to the Lord (3)
  • The Lord will measure our success by the motives of our heart (2)
  • God gives wisdom to give a proper response (1)

Live with a clear conscience and be sensitive to the Spirit of God’s leading in your life.


Pastor Brad