There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Every man thinks his way is right, because it feels and seems right. But God warns that such thinking leads to death. Most men are too in love with their opinions to change, even if the Bible condemns their thoughts to be sinful and self-destructive. There is only one criterion for truth and wisdom, and that is the will of God revealed in the Bible.
Reader, you have strong opinions of how life should be lived and things done. Your thoughts that seem so right come from parents, teachers, friends, religion, habits, culture, various media, experiences, and most of all, your deceitful heart and wicked imagination (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9). But these sources apart from divine truth all lead to your death.
The first clause describes one way of one man. This is a man’s personal opinion about a particular matter. He is confident his opinion is good and right, because he came up with the idea and has enormous bias to justify himself and defend his thinking. He has thought about the issue, and he is comfortable and content with his thinking on the matter.
The second clause describes the end, or result, of one way of one man to be the plural ways of death. There are many ways men can die, and each man’s own arrogant thinking is able to get him there easily and surely. When the foolish ideas of individual men are combined, they result in plural ways of death. Learn to hate your thoughts.
Because every man is very vulnerable to arrogant thinking and errors, Solomon repeated this proverb to emphasize the value of its lesson (Pr 14:12; Phil 3:1). He also included several proverbs with different wording for a similar lesson (Pr 12:15; 16:2; 21:2; 28:26). He knew you would foolishly think your ideas are noble and wise. Humble yourself now!
A wise man learns not to trust his own thinking and to seek God’s will on every matter (Pr 3:5-6). He then avoids the world’s seductive ways that lead to death (Pr 12:26; Ps 1:1-6). He humbly confesses his ignorance, prays for God to search his heart and thoughts, and judges every opinion by clear Bible doctrine (Pr 30:2-3; Ps 139:23-24; 119:128).
Self-deceit is blinding and damning. It leads you to destruction, but you cannot detect you have lied to yourself, because you are in love with your thoughts (Pr 18:2; 26:12,16). No one can give reasons to persuade you, because their ideas are inferior to yours. And once you commit yourself to a course of action, you are too proud to admit any error (Ps 36:2).
Popular thinking on matters of truth and wisdom is always wrong. The majority is in love with themselves and each other, but God considers their most noble thoughts to be an abomination (Luke 16:15). He plainly declared that most men take the wide gate and broad way to destruction; only a few take the strait gate and narrow way to life (Matt 7:13-14). God knows the thoughts of men are vanity – worthless trash (Ps 94:11), and you should think the same of them – whether your own or another man’s (Ps 119:113).
King Saul of Israel had an idea, and it seemed right. Instead of slaughtering and wasting all the good animals of the Amalekites, he would allow the people to keep them for an offering to Jehovah. But Jehovah had already stated they were to be slaughtered. So Samuel the prophet condemned his thinking as witchcraft and idolatry (I Sam 15:1-35).
Saul of Tarsus thought with himself to do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9). Notice that he thought with himself, which is the sin of this proverb, because he had no internal check on false thoughts. You need an outside opinion that is perfectly right to correct your thinking, and God’s will in the Bible is perfect (Ps 119:128; Is 8:20).
The Bible is a fabulous gift from God to His children, for it contains the true wisdom of the infinitely wise God. You can correct all your evil and foolish thinking by learning what the Bible teaches on every subject. It is able to make the man of God perfect (II Tim 3:16-17). It can lead you through any difficulty (Ps 119:105). It is pure truth and wisdom.
After using the Bible as your first standard for right thinking, your next safeguard is to consult wise and successful men. There is safety from your vain ideas in a multitude of wise counselors (Pr 11:14; 12:15; 15:22). But only a few men are humble and wise enough to subject their ideas and opinions to the examination and criticism of others.
Men have ideas that seem right to add to God’s word. These rules make their worship vain (Matt 15:7-9). It does not matter if the rules are conservative or liberal, or how romantic the concept. Paul condemned anything outside God’s word, because God rejects all inventions (Rom 14:1-6; Col 2:16-23). The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, not a better idea from a creative Christian (Rom 14:17-18).
Where are the great men of God, who will accept nothing but what is clearly laid out in Holy Scripture? Where are the men who will accept only the old paths of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jer 6:16; Jude 1:3)? Where are the men who listen closely for correction from the Holy Spirit through His word, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Is 30:21)? Where are the men who will reject and crush all efforts to add to God’s word?
Reader, do you think you have the way to heaven figured out? Does your church seem right because it is beautiful, large, or growing? There is only one way to heaven, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ apart from any man, priest, pope, or system. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).