Proverbs 16:2

ESV All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.
NIV All a person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
NASB All the ways of a person are clean in his own sight, But the Lord examines the motives.
CSB All a person's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs motives.
NLT People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.
KJV All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.

What does Proverbs 16:2 mean?

God knows our inner thoughts and motives, even better than we do (Romans 8:26–27). Very few people act with the assumption that their choices are "evil." Some do exactly that—but most have ways of justifying their deeds. The process of making excuses for our decisions makes us feel as if we're morally upright. That self-justification is not the final measure, however (1 Corinthians 4:4). We may believe our actions are right, but the Lord examines our hearts and knows what motivates us to do what we do. "Why" we act is as important as "what" we choose.

The Pharisees thought their actions were righteous. They fasted and prayed openly, but their hearts were not right in the Lord's sight. He saw their self-serving motives and labeled them "hypocrites." Jesus instructed His disciples to avoid hypocrisy. Matthew 6 warns about doing good things for the wrong reasons (Matthew 6:1). Jesus condemned the practice of making a big show of giving to the needy (Matthew 6:2), of praying with the intent to "show off" for others (Matthew 6:5), and of deliberately looking gloomy to impress others while fasting (Matthew 6:16). Jesus told a Samaritan woman that the Father seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). An outward practice of religion is worthless unless it is motivated by love for God and done in accordance with the truth of God's Word. It is God, not man (1 Samuel 16:7), who is the perfect measure of our morality.
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