Pearls From Proverbs: A Seemingly Right Course

By Irvin Himmel

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14:12).

So important is the thought of this verse that it is repeated in Proverbs 16:25.

Things Not Always What They Seem

To an infant, a pair of scissors may seem desirable, for the child does not realize the danger in playing with a sharp cutting instrument.

It seemed proper to Saul of Tarsus in his earlier years to persecute the disciples of Jesus. Looking back on that part of his life, he acknowledged, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:9-11). It seemed to Saul at the time that he was rendering God a service by persecuting the followers of Jesus, but he was actually fighting against God.

When Paul clashed with the Greek philosophers at Athens, some of them said, “He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods” (Acts 17:18). They made this judgment because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. But in this case, as in many others, things were not what they seemed.

Right Not Determined By “Seeming”

A way may seem right but that does not make it right. A number of years ago I was traveling south on interstate 75 in the early hours before dawn. A heavy fog made visibility difficult. I stopped at a restaurant. Daylight was just beginning as I negotiated several turns to get back on the interstate. It seemed that I was heading in the direction of Florida until I began noticing road signs. I had traveled a number of miles before realizing that I was going in the direction from which I had just come. I turned around and headed south, but for a while it seemed that this should be north. Finally, when the sun broke through the fog, my sense of direction cleared.

In the course of one’s life it may seem that he is on the right track. “But a man is not the highest surveyor of life, and the map that he draws is not the supreme authority” (W. F. Adeney). Thinking a thing to be right does not make it so.

Many people rely on their feelings. They say, “This seems to me to be the right thing to do.” But what does the word of God say about it? We may honestly feel that we are on the right road and all the while be on the wrong road.

God gives us the standard of right. No matter how things seem, or how we feel, or what we personally may be inclined to think, we must let the Bible be our guide.

Ways That Seem Right

(1) The end justifies the means. In many situations people pay little attention to whether or not they are following the Scriptures. They suppose that so long as some good is resulting from their actions, they must have God’s approval. But it is never right to do wrong in order to accomplish something worthwhile. One is not justified in stealing in order to give to the poor. There is no warrant for perverting the gospel in order to gain favor with sinners.

(2) God will make an exception. There are people who think that no matter what the Bible says, they can do otherwise and get by. Recently, a woman who entered into an adulterous marriage was questioned by a preacher about her conduct, and she replied that she felt that God would make an exception to Matthew 19:9 in her case. Apparently, some feel that God will make an exception to Mark 16:16 in their case, and they can be saved without believing and being baptized. The way of the “exception” rule seems right, but do not be deceived by it. God has not revealed that He is going to make exceptions with any of us.

(3) Many others are going this way. It is hard for some, old and young alike, to resist the current popular opinion. To them it seems right to do whatever the multitudes around them are doing. Moses warned Israel, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude, to do evil” (Ex. 23:2). Jesus taught that the way is “narrow” which leads to life, “and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).

A way is not right merely because it seems so!

Destination Death

A way may seem right, but consider the end thereof. No one can judge’ the end of a road by the appearance which it has at the beginning. The broad road which leads to eternal ruin offers many attractions at the outset. There are bright lights, the promise of fun and pleasure, and the crowd entering this way seems to include the most influential and best educated. Alas, look at the destination!

The end result of what one does should be contemplated from the beginning. A sinful act may offer temporary pleasure, but it is followed by remorse, regret, and misery. A way may seem right, but if it ends in eternal separation from God, it should be avoided at all cost. Read Romans 6:23.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 10, p. 298
May 21, 1987