Nothing clever here

2 We justify our actions by appearances;
   God examines our motives. (Pr. 21:2)

We spend a lot of time working to show ourselves as good, or as justified in what we do.  We want to be free from blame or guilt that might be associated with our actions and our thoughts.  The problem with us justifying, or declaring a person's actions as "right" is that we do it by nothing more than what we see on the outside.  We evaluate the activities of man, thinking we know the motives based on the actions that we see revealed.  

The problem with this type of a judgment on our part is that actions do not always align with motives.  God looks closely at the motives of our heart.  Our motives are those inner drives, or impulses, that lead to all action on our part.  God knows the specific reason for our actions - man does not.  So, the lesson for us:  Don't rely on appearances!  We may find ourselves in a position of mis-judging someone and then be guilty of forming very incorrect opinions about their actions.

The writer of this proverb went on to say that "mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road."  Since God pays such close attention to our motives, it would be wise to ask him to keep us on track with those motives.  When our motives are selfish, we make choices that are self-serving and "anti-Christ" like in appearance.

Pure, pollution-free, motives get at the heart of right choices - when we are influenced by motives that are tainted by any form of self, we make wrong choices.  Those wrong choices lead to wrong paths in our walk.  It is when we are on those wrong paths that we appear to "walk alone".  God wants us on paths that don't lead to our destruction - involved in things that just end up tying us up in "knots" on the inside!

Another verse caught my attention in this passage:  Nothing clever, nothing conceived, nothing contrived, can ever get the better of God.  Clever stuff is the kind of stuff that is "thought to be smart", but often proved to be far from intelligent when put to the test.  We will do well to remember that our own intelligence pales when compared to the omniscience of our God.  We may think our clever plans are "all that", but God knows that the skills we possess are made by him alone and are only worth their full value when used for his purposes!

Conceived things are those things that we allow to form in our minds, or imagine in our hearts, that may not even be true or accurate.  They can be tainted by the view of life we have at the moment.  We don't know the motives of our own heart, let alone the motives of another.  When we put "faith" in the conceptions of our own thoughts, we may be selling ourselves, or another, short.  Contrived thoughts are unreliable - they are devised without much attention to outcome.  Our thoughts, at best, are "one-sided" - they need the filtering of the Holy Spirit so they become balanced, reliable, and trustworthy.  

Our thoughts, as flawed as they are, can be instruments God uses to bless others, but we have to allow them to be energized by God.  No matter how creative we are in our own self-thought / self-taught manner, we can never be as clearly thinking as we'd like to be - we need God's help to keep clarity in our thoughts and mixed motives out of our actions.


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