Proverbs 16:2

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.

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Every man thinks he is right about his life – he defaults to self-righteousness by nature. He dislikes instruction and correction, for he assumes his way of doing things is good and wise. But God sees his heart and thoughts and the proud and selfish motives there. Learn to mistrust and resent yourself, for your heart is a lying flatterer to deceive you into error.

Do you know yourself? How can you? Your own heart lies to you worse and more than anyone else. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). David said, “Who can understand his [own] errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Ps 19:12). No man truly knows himself. You do not know yourself.

Of course you think you are clean and right in all your ways. Your self-righteous heart justifies everything you think, say, and do. Your lying heart leads you to all sorts of folly and sin, and you hardly even know it (Pr 16:25; 30:12). But the LORD weighs your secret ambitions and motives, just as He weighed Belshazzar at a Babylonian feast. And He will find you wanting. Then He will purify you in the fiery furnace of affliction.

Though you cannot know the deceitfulness of your heart, the LORD does. The blessed God says to man, “Who can know it?” Then He answers, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10). All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom you have to do, including the thoughts and intents of your heart (Heb 4:12-13).

You are being weighed now. The scales of holy justice are tipping. Examine yourself. Why are you reading this commentary? How are you reading it? Have you already decided it has nothing for you? Do you think you know your spirit? Is this warning for other sinners, those far worse than you? Do you resent this spiritual warning? Are you thankful to God you are not as wicked as other men? Are you too busy for this spiritual stuff? Are you irritated there is not something new and exciting to tickle your ears?

Foolish person! You deceive yourself. Confess your depravity. Repent of your arrogant self-righteousness. Hate your self-esteem. Get rid of confidence in things you have done – for the motives were likely very wicked. True humility is to fall naked and helpless before the holy God of heaven and confess sincerely, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). So important is this proverb, Solomon gave it to you twice (Pr 21:2).

It is easy to slide through spiritual instruction – to speed-read or listen lazily to satisfy a deceitful conscience. It is easy to apply warnings to others – to identify motes at great distances, while missing your own beam. It is easy to despise others – to thank God you are not as disgusting as they are, while your spirit is weighed in heaven as worst of all.

There is nothing worse than self-righteousness. Consider it well. What is it? Thinking you are righteous and justifying yourself against conscience, correction, and conversion. Such a person has no clue they are full of sin, for they have allowed lofty thoughts of themselves to totally distort their judgment. They only use the mirror of God’s word for others, for they do not even see a need for examining their own faces (Jas 1:21-25).

How will you reason with such a person? You cannot point out their sin, for they cannot see it. Their arrogant self-confidence rejects your reasons (Pr 26:12,16; Gal 6:3). And these scorners will hate you for the effort (Pr 9:7-8). They crucified the Lord of glory for exposing their false and hypocritical religion. Every man is a Pharisee in his own spirit.

What is self-righteousness? It is confidence you are good, competent, intelligent, and capable. It is difficulty in saying you are wrong, foolish, stupid, proud, or rebellious. It enjoys finding or discussing the faults of others. It presumes to accuse others, when having its own set of sins. It always has opinions about others’ conduct without Scripture.

It is the defensiveness to resist and balk at correction. It is the presumption of making judgments and opinions against authority. It is the ease with which you can apply a sermon to most anyone else. It is the thought during a sermon that you do not really need change in that area. It is the response that you are comfortable with things as they are.

It is the lack of thankfulness for correction. It may cry defensively when reproved or warned about sin. It responds, “I am just a failure,” when criticized. It is the excuse, “I am not that bad – you just misunderstand me.” It remembers the sins of others when it is being corrected. It may scornfully mention the sins of the person correcting it.

What can you do? Humble yourself and admit you are at least as wicked in all your ways as the worst sinner you know (I Tim 1:15). Confess your self-righteousness as a putrid stench in the nostrils of a holy God (Luke 18:9-14). Admit your righteousnesses are as clean as used menstrual rags (Is 64:6). Beg the LORD to search and reveal your wicked thoughts to you (Job 34:32; Ps 26:2; 139:23-24). Ask for a clean heart (Ps 51:10).

Prove your clean spirit by letting God’s word correct and teach you (Is 66:2). Receive correction without rebelling (Ps 73:21-22). The blessed God never despises a broken and contrite heart (Ps 34:18; 51:17; Is 57:15). If you go down in humble contrition, He will lift you up (Jas 4:10; I Pet 5:6). Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3).

You cannot defer or minimize self-examination. It is the holy exercise of spiritual men, who know the deceitful wickedness of their hearts (I Cor 11:28; II Cor 13:5). Every secret thing will soon be exposed before the holy tribunal of Jesus Christ. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts from double-minded hypocrisy through critical and sober repentance now (Jas 4:8-10). Do it yourself today before you must do it before God.

Wise men will recognize that the evil within is more deceitful and dangerous to pleasing God than the evil without. While hatred of this world is a good and godly attitude toward the dangerous temptations there, it is the deceitful lusts in your own heart that are your greatest enemy. Constant vigilance with sincere humility before God will save your spirit. Keep your heart with all diligence to reject any lofty thoughts of self that arise (Pr 4:23).