Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
The pattern of man from the very beginning has been listen to God’s clear instruction – and then promptly skew it until it makes sense to us or is to our liking. A quick review of Genesis 2 and 3 reveals God giving a very simple command – “Do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden” – after which Adam and Eve make a choice that seemed right to them, that made sense to them. God’s way seemed so restrictive, unreasonable and just plain wrong. Surely what God said is not what He really meant. And Satan was right there to totally agree with them. So they ate – and we all died.
The reality is that we are not any different than Adam or Eve when it comes to finding ways that seem right to us. Let me illustrate by looking at some “ways” of God that are direct and straightforward. Then, because I am not a simple, naïve or “just give it to Jesus” Pollyanna preacher, I will show you how to come up with a way that seems right to a man – “reasonable, rational” choices – for each.
Do not commit adultery.
- My wife doesn’t love me, she doesn’t understand or appreciate me, and the sex is non-existent. I would just leave if it weren’t for the kids. But Sally at work “gets” me so we have been spending time together. No commitment, just two people trying to enjoy life a little with no one getting hurt.
Do not steal.
- Had a surprise blessing today. It was crazy busy at Publix and the cashier must have thought the five I gave her was a fifty. At any rate I walked out with forty extra dollars. Not a big deal really. Big stores like that routinely write off such errors and Lord knows the extra money came at just the right time.
Flee sexual immorality.
- I think Sally really is the one. We want to get married and need to save money for the wedding so we are going to live together for a year. Besides, it is important to find out if we are compatible before we make such a big commitment.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.
- I am not going to be a weak, doormat type. What he did was just wrong and he needs reminded over and over of how much he hurt me.
Do not lie.
- Wow, I really made a mess of the family finances. Those overdraft charges killed us. But my wife’s life is already stressful enough with work and the kids and I love her too much to make it any worse, so I just lie to her about it. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Do you see the pattern? We take God’s clear direction and twist it with our own understanding – or desire. What may make these situations even worse is that, truth be told, we know there is something wrong with these choices – but we want them anyway – and God knows our motives, even when we won’t look at them.
Let’s be honest. It often seems what God asks is impossible. In fact, when compared to what seems right to a man, God’s ways often appear to just be wrong (reference God’s approach to conquering Jericho).
So how do we avoid the “way of death”? How do we ensure we are not just walking in “a way that seems right to a man”
Let me ask you to read Psalm 1:1-7. David tells us not allow ourselves to be diluted and polluted by those around us who give no thought or weight to God’s ways. Don’t walk with them or you will end up standing with them to discuss their views and finally end up sitting with them because they have persuaded you.
Then let me ask you to consider Proverbs 3:5-8: How can I walk a straight path – one made straight by God? Don’t lean on my own understanding. Acknowledge His presence and involvement in every aspect of my day – it will keep my focus on Him, not the voices around me. If it seems impossible, actually consider asking Him to reveal to me how to live out what appears to be impossible instead of just coming up with my own way. In all cases, trust Him and obey.
Here is an ironic restatement of, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death”: “There is a way that seems wrong to a man, but its end is the way to life.”