What does Proverbs 21:2 mean?
ESV: Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.
NIV: A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.
NASB: Every person’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord examines the hearts.
CSB: All a person's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs hearts.
NLT: People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.
KJV: Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
The Lord can control the hearts of anyone, even a king (Proverbs 21:1), because He knows the smallest details of our inner thoughts. A person may think his behavior is fine, but the ultimate Judge is God. No matter how good a person may think he is, the Lord looks upon the heart and sees whatever sin is there. Other Scriptures indicate our hearts are prone to self-deception about sin (Jeremiah 17:9). People may judge each other, assuming they can know with perfection who is good, but the Lord sees what we cannot see (1 Samuel 16:7).
Ultimately, all people have a level of sin in their inner being. The Bible notes that "none is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). The same passage also declares, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The Pharisee who stood in the temple and arrogantly compared himself to others, including someone who stood nearby, thought he was righteous because he performed religious acts. However, God knew his heart and did not justify him. He justified the person who acknowledged his sin and prayed, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Proverbs 21:1–16 continues Solomon's wise observations (Proverbs 10:1) by acknowledging the Lord's control of kings. He also mentions what the Lord despises: pride, love of money, violence, the conduct of the wicked, the withholding of charity, bribery, and apostasy. On the other hand, he commends righteousness and justice, pure conduct, wise acceptance of instruction, and charity.
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
Accessed 11/30/2023 5:26:05 AM
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