Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Sermons
A Temper of CautionJ. Parker, D.D.Proverbs 14:12
Beliefs Important; or Sincerity no SafeguardSunday CompanionProverbs 14:12
Deceitful WaysE. Bersier.Proverbs 14:12
ForelookingsH. Ward Beecher.Proverbs 14:12
Moral Colour-Blindness, or the Seeing Things TrulyChristian AgeProverbs 14:12
The Seeming Right Often RuinousD. Thomas, D.D.Proverbs 14:12
The Way and the EndThe Christian TreasuryProverbs 14:12
The Way Seems Right, But is WrongProverbs 14:12
The Way Which Seemeth RightDean Afford.Proverbs 14:12
Unsafe WaysJ. Jowett, M.A.Proverbs 14:12
Wrong Ways Followed in Spite of WarningJ. W. Nutt, M.A.Proverbs 14:12
The Understanding of One's WayE. Johnson Proverbs 14:8-19
Loneliness and LaughterW. Clarkson Proverbs 14:10-13
The tenth verse suggests to us the serious and solemnizing fact of -

I. THE ELEMENT OF LONELINESS IN HUMAN LIFE. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," etc. In one aspect our life path is thronged. It is becoming more and more difficult to be alone. Hours that were once sacred to solitude are now invaded by society. And yet it remains true that "in the central depths of our nature we are alone." There is a point at which, as he goes inward, our nearest neighbour, our most intimate friend, must stop; there is a sanctuary of the soul into which no foot intrudes. It is there where we make our ultimate decision for good or evil; it is there where we experience our truest joys and our profoundest griefs; it is there where we live our truest life. We may so crowd our life with duties and with pleasures that we may reduce to its smallest radius this innermost circle; but some time must we spend there, and the great decisive experiences must we there go through. There we taste our very sweetest satisfactions, and there we bear our very heaviest burdens. And no one but the Father of spirits can enter into that secret place of the soul. So true is it that

"Not e'en the dearest heart, and nearest to our own, Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh." It is well for us to remember that there is more, both of happiness and of sorrow, than we can see; well, that we may not be overburdened with the weight of the manifold and multiplied evils we are facing; well, that we may realize how strong is the reason that, when our cup of prosperity is full, we may have "the heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize" with those who, beneath a smiling countenance, may carry a very heavy heart. For we have to consider -

II. THE SUPERFICIAL ELEMENT IN MUCH HUMAN GLADNESS. "Even in laughter," etc. A man may smile and smile, and be most melancholy. To wear a smile upon our countenance, or to conclude our sentences with laughter, is often only a mere trick of style, a mere habit of life, cultivated with little difficulty. A true smile, an honest, laugh, that comes not from the lips or from the lungs, but from the heart, is a very acceptable and a very admirable thing. But a false smile and a forced laugh bespeak a double-minded soul and a doubtful character. Surely the angels of God weep almost, as much over the laughter as over the tears of mankind. For beneath its sound they may hear all too much that is hollow and unreal, and not a little that is vain and guilty. But, on the other hand, to smile with the glad and to laugh with the merry is a sympathetic grace not to be despised (Romans 12:15, first clause).

III. THE ISSUE OF FALSE SATISFACTIONS. "The end of that mirth is heaviness." How often is heaviness the end of mirth! All enjoyment that does not carry with it the approval of the conscience, all that is disregardful of the Divine Law, all that is a violation of the laws of our physical or our spiritual nature, must end and does end, sooner or later, in heaviness - in depression of spirit, in decline of power. It is a sorry thing for a man to accustom himself to momentary mirth, to present pleasure at the expense of future joy, of well being in later years.

LESSONS.

1. Let the necessary solitariness of life lead us to choose the very best friendships we can form; that we may have those who can go far and often with us into the recesses of our spirit, and accompany us, as far as man can, in the larger and deeper experiences of our life.

2. Let the superficiality of much happiness lead us to inquire of ourselves whether we have planted in our soul the deeper roots of joy; those which will survive every test and trial of life, and which will be in us when we have left time and sense altogether behind us.

3. Let the perilous nature of some gratifications impose on us the duty of a wise watchfulness; that we may banish forever from heart and life all injurious delights which "war against the soul," and rob us of our true heritage here and in the heavenly country. - C.







There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
It seems strange that all the dangers of this mortal state should be concentrated upon man. The dangers in all the realms below man are very few, and very simple, and very brief in their scope. Man, who is called the noblest of God's creatures, is perpetually stumbling; is perpetually warped, biassed, perverted, tangled; is perpetually threatened with sudden destructions of every kind. He is the sublimest spectacle in his integrity and greatness, and the most wretched in his wreck and ruin. Man is more complex than the animals. He lives in a higher sphere. He is equipped accordingly. He varies most because he has the most power of variation, and because the combinations possible to one so richly endowed are almost infinite. All men alike are brought into life in a state of helplessness and ignorance. It is not true that all men are born equal or alike. There are unquestionable hereditary tendencies. All are born alike in this: that they have to begin and find out the ways of life. It is not possible for any parent to transmit the whole of his experience to his children. So, in the beginning of life, God's voice sounds to every one, as in the text, "Beware, all ways are not alike safe." But how should ways seem right and yet be wrong? There are many things whose nature does not disclose itself at once. Illustrate cubs of tigers. A large part of evil lies in excess in things good. If you trace one and another of the great mature powers of men, you will find that, if they act thus far, and under certain dominant influences, they are beneficial; but that otherwise they are vicious. So men are often deceived in the ways of life, as they look upon them at first, because the point where good breaks off, and evil begins to be developed, is not easily discerned. There are ways that seem right to men, but are very dangerous. In general, it is true that pleasure is the fruit of obedience. Punishment (speaking generally) is an indication of transgression, and pleasure is a sign of obedience. Nevertheless, it is also true that pain sometimes indicates the highest degree of virtue. To suffer is to be a man. But there is much evil which is known for evil as soon as it is seen, but which, before manifesting itself openly, runs through what may be called an incubation. Illustrate infectious disease. The most inconsequential elements of life are those that report themselves quickest, with superficial results; the most fundamental and radical elements do not report themselves until they have had a long period of development. It is a fact that men are busy with their fellow-men to beguile them. In this life we act on each other, far more than we are acted on by great natural agents. It is a great danger to any young man to be conceited in his own wisdom and in his own strength. Those who think they have a strength and a wisdom which others have not, and act accordingly, perish because they are fools. No man is safe who does not give heed to the Word of God and to the presence of the Lord. You are perfectly safe so long as you live with a consciousness that God looks upon you.

(H. Ward Beecher.)

In consequence of the paralysis of the natural conscience, the phenomenon indicated in the text is of constant occurrence. Reference is not to the course of the open sinner, but to that of the mistaken and self-deceiving man. There are persons whose course lies just short of that degree of divergence from right, where the conscience begins to protect, and yet is sure, as every divergence must, if followed, to lead very far from it at last. Observe that the text does not say that these apparently right ways are themselves the ways of death, but that they end in the ways of death. The ways of which we are to speak are mainly of two kinds; errors in practice and errors in doctrine.

1. A life not led under the direct influence of religion. The man who, however many virtues he may possess, however upright he may be in the duties of life, however carefully he may attend to the duties of religion, does not receive it into his heart, nor act on its considerations as a motive. This is a way of life which usually seems right to a man. It describes the ordinary, unexceptionable citizen of a peaceful and religious age. But this way must end in the ways of death. One day they must come into the presence of God, and stand before Him. Wherewith shall they come? They have left God out of their calculation. That neglect is a way of death.

2. Those who, believing from the heart, and living in the main as in God's sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the gospel. This case is found even in the very strongholds of the profession of religion. It may be illustrated by all the violent partisanship which is so characteristic of our day. The case is found again in the class of persons who, while professing zeal for religion in general, nourish unscrupulously some one known sin, or prohibited indulgence. But He whom we serve will not have a reserved life, but a whole one.

3. There is a class of persons who deal with erroneous doctrine as the other class with deficient practice. These plead that each should conscientiously arrive at his own conclusion, and respect that conclusion as sacred. But this involves much more than is suspected at first sight. The issue of what has been said is this, and it is a lesson by no means unneeded in the present day, that whether we consider practice or belief, each man's deeming is not each man's law; every man's deeming may be wrong, and we can only find that which is right by each one of us believing and serving God, as He has revealed himself to us in Christ. There is but one way that is true; but one, and that is the way everlasting.

(Dean Afford.)

And yet the man who takes what seems to him a right way (but is wrong) will be punished if he follows it, for his perverted conscience may arise from his desertion of God, and his refusal of the light He offered.

(J. W. Nutt, M.A.)

Unconcern, which is charming in the child, is ridiculous and guilty in the man whose decisions are likely to involve fearful consequences for himself and for others; want of foresight is a crime for the man who holds in his hands the fortunes of others or the destinies of a state. There are ways that lead to death. Each of us has come into contact with beings whose excesses have led to a premature end; others still occupy a place in the world, but their ruined health, their weakened faculties, show that they are dead while they live. But there are beings who are attacked neither in their life nor in their strength, nor in their apparent dignity, and who are none the better for all this. The artful, the selfish, who think only of self, may possess all kinds of earthly blessings; their life may be rich, brilliant, full of enjoyment, admired of men. Does this mean that they have not entered upon a wrong path? Worldly morality is a loose net which retains certain sinners, but allows the most guilty to escape. Many a way that leads to perdition may seem to us right. Men argue that the way a man follows must seem to him right, and so they persuade themselves that they will be accepted of God. In this there is a mingling of truth and error. But sincerity in ignorance or error has never saved any one from the often terrible consequences which such ignorance or error may entail. Societies are based upon this axiom, "No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law."

(E. Bersier.)

The wise man is not here speaking of gross wickedness. It is of the deceitful path. Is there only one such way?

I. THE WAY OF WILFUL IGNORANCE. This is very commonly thought a safe way, but its end is death. How constantly ignorance is pleaded as an excuse for neglecting religion. Ignorance that is voluntary is sinful.

II. THE WAY OF FORMALITY. An outward form and imitation of godliness, without any inward spiritual feeling. But professions can never deceive God, and the way of formal religion offends Him.

III. THE WAY OF DOING ONE'S BEST. This is often thought to be the right way; yet it is equally ruinous. What do men mean by "doing their best"? Alas! it commonly means doing something less than God requires. In numberless instances, doing the best means "doing nothing at all."

IV. THE WHY OF UNCOVENANTED MERCY. Men own that they are sinners, and deserving of punishment, but they speak peace to themselves, saying, "God is merciful." It is true that God is merciful, but there is a particular way in which alone that mercy is offered to sinners. God has never said that He will spare the unconverted, the impenitent, the unbelieving, the ungodly.

V. THY WAY OF GOOD INTENTIONS. A man resolves to seek God; and that, too, in God's own way, by true repentance, faith in Christ, and by a life of holy obedience. But he stops with the resolves. That way is a way of death.

(J. Jowett, M.A.)

The Christian Treasury.
We are all travellers. Our journey occupies our lifetime. Its end depends upon the way we take. The endings are but two. Yet many go heedlessly on. They love the way, and they are pleased to think well of it.

1. It is the way in which they were born.

2. They see many walking in this way.

3. It is a way which is most pleasing to them.

4. It is an easy way to walk in.

5. It is a way which is profitable to self.How shall we know this way of death? It is the way of sin. It is the course of this world. It is the way of indifference to the things of eternity.

(The Christian Treasury.)

The text holds good in commerce, in theological thought, in moral conduct, in social relationships; indeed, it holds good along the whole circle of human relation and experience. What is the lesson which such a state of affairs conveys to the wise and understanding heart? It is that life should be spent in a temper of caution; when we seem most secure we may be most exposed to danger; not only is our enemy a roaring lion, whose voice can be heard from afar, he is also a cunning and silent serpent, drawing himself towards us without making any demonstration, and not revealing himself until he is within striking distance.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

Many of the ways which men pursue cannot even "seem right." The way of the habitual blasphemer, Sabbath-breaker, debauchee, etc., can scarcely appear right to any man. What are the ways that often seem right to men, but are ruinous?

I. THE CONVENTIONALLY MORAL WAY SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. Civilised society has its recognised rules of life. These rules recognise only the external life of man. They take no cognisance of thought, feeling, desire, and the unexpressed things of the soul. Industry, sobriety, veracity, honesty, these are the extent of its demands, and if these are conformed to, society approves and applauds. Without disparaging in the least this social morality, we are bound to say that what is conventionally moral may be essentially wrong. It may spring from wrong motives, and be governed by wrong reasons. The Scribes and Pharisees of old were conventionally right. Albeit they were rotten to the core. The end of such a way is death. Death to all the elements of well-being.

II. THE FORMALISTICALLY RELIGIOUS WAY SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. Religion has its forms, it has its places, and its times of worship, its order of service, its benevolent institutions. A correct and constant attendance to such forms are considered by thousands as religion itself. It is mechanism, nothing more. The motions of machinery, not the actions of the soul. There is no life in it, and it cannot lead to life, but to death.

III. THE WAY OF THE SELFISHLY EVANGELICAL SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. There is no true religion apart from a living faith in Christ. But the thing that is come to be called evangelical is to a fearful extent intensely selfish. Its appeals are all to the hopes and fears of men. Its preaching makes men feel, but their feelings are all concerned for their own interest; makes men pray, but their prayer is a selfish entreaty for the deliverance from misery, and the attainment of happiness. "He that seeketh his life shall lose it." Conclusion: Right and wrong are independent of men's opinions, what seems right to men is often wrong, and the reverse. Men are held responsible for their beliefs. A wrong belief, however sincere, will lead to ruin.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

Christian Age.
Not a few persons have received a genuine surprise on being told, after an examination, that they were affected with colour-blindness, h much larger number might experience a far greater shock on learning that they are suffering from moral colour-blindness. The eye that fails to distinguish colours may be exceptionally good in judging of form, and unusually keen in detecting objects at a distance. The victim of colour-blindness may even name colours so correctly that for a long time his defect escapes notice. So the person that is morally colour-blind is frequently one distinguished for remarkable shrewdness and foresight; he is quite an oracle as to what is prudent in business and in good taste in social life. He names the virtues and vices as other people do, and his verdicts on conduct seem so generally to tally with the truth that his weakness is not suspected by others, and is entirely hidden from himself. Yet the moral colour-blindness goes to much greater length than does the ordinary trouble. Its radical evil is in a failure to distinguish black and white, a defect exceedingly rare in the physical eye. When the fault is betrayed, even in the slightest degree, in judgments on nice points, it is a sign of something deep-seated and serious, which will lead one to pronounce a lie white, and to call evil good and good evil. The revelation of its true nature may come, as the revelation of the other colour-blindness has sometimes come, in some terrible wreck that means ruin to many others as well as to the one at fault. Too much care in this matter cannot be exercised in regard to any one, whether in his own behalf or in behalf of those whose safety depends in large measure on his seeing things truly. There is a terrible danger in following a colour-blind leader. There is one advantage and encouragement for the morally colour-blind. The defect is not, in their case, organic; and, while it may develop with startling rapidity if neglected, it is possible to overcome it. Its detection, as well as its cure, depends on the most careful and constant testing by the truest standards and on hourly aid from the great Physician.

(Christian Age.)

A sailor remarks, "Sailing from Cuba, we thought we had gained sixty miles one day in our course, but at the next observation we found we had lost more than thirty. It was an under-current. The ship had been going forward by the wind, but going back by current." So a man's course may often seem to be right, but the stream beneath is driving him the very contrary way to what he thinks.

Sunday Companion.
Two men were talking together of their beliefs, when one of them petulantly remarked to his Christian brother: "I don't care what your creed is. I am an agnostic. It makes no difference what a man believes if he is sincere." Oh, yes, it does. Let us see. A family was poisoned recently by eating toadstools which they sincerely believed to be mushrooms. Three of them died. Did it make no difference? A man endorsed a note for a friend whom he sincerely believed to be an honest man. He was a scoundrel, and left him to pay the debt. Did it make no difference? A traveller took the wrong train, and went to Scotland instead of to Brighton. Did it make no difference? If a man is sincere he will take pains to know the truth. For where facts are concerned all the thinking in the world will not change them. A toadstool remains a toadstool, whatever we may think about it.

(Sunday Companion.)

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