The Meaning of Proverbs 14:12: “There Is a Way That Seems Right”

Proverbs 14:12 warns us that man’s way of living leads to death. What can we learn from this warning? How can we choose a path that leads to life?

What does Proverbs 14:12 say?

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

A man stands at a crossroads, choosing between two paths to follow. One path leads to life, and the other leads to death. 

The choice would seem easy: everyone would take the road leading to life, right? However, choosing the right path isn’t as simple as it seems. According to the Bible, if that man relies on his own intuition, he will likely choose the way leading to death without even realizing it.

Why? The answer is in the book of Proverbs: 

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Relying on his or her personal judgment, a human being chooses the way that seems best. But, when faulty human judgment is the basis for a decision, things often end in disaster. 

God offers a way to life, but humankind consistently chooses the other way.

Why is this the case? 

People want to choose for themselves what’s right 

From the very beginning, humanity has wanted to determine for itself what is right and wrong—a decision that has usually ended in pain, suffering and death.

Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, they and their descendants were separated from God because of sin (Romans 3:23).

Adam and Eve’s decision marked the beginning of humanity’s long pattern of disobeying God’s laws. From that day on, people have ignored God’s way of life, choosing their own way instead.

Over generations, disobedience has resulted in a world that tries to pick and choose moral principles. There is no single sin listed in the Bible that isn’t noticeably present in our modern society.

Adam and Eve’s decision marked the beginning of humanity’s long pattern of disobeying God’s laws. From that day on, people have ignored God’s way of life, choosing their own way instead.In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul lists the sinful “works of the flesh” that should not be present in God’s people. Yet, each of them can be found in abundance in the world today.

The sinful “works of the flesh” listed in Galatians 5 are in common practice today, and many are actually promoted

Sexual immorality, for example, has been woven into the everyday fabric of human society, recklessly promoted in the media and even touted as “healthy” by many misguided individuals.

Even worse, modern society mocks God’s way, calling it “naive” and “restrictive.” Some even vilify Christianity for opposing sinful lifestyles. People want to live without shame, choosing to decide for themselves what is evil and good.

In Isaiah 5:20-21, God warns those who call “evil good” and “good evil” that they will be judged for their blatant disobedience. The passage describes such people as being “wise in their own eyes.” 

Just as Isaiah warned, the world’s idea of morality has turned away from God’s law, claiming to know better.

For now, God allows people the freedom to live as they choose. However, they do not get to determine the end result of their actions.

The way of man leads to death

While humanity looks to a way that “seems right,” God makes it very clear that it ends in death.

When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they did more than set humanity on a path away from God. Their sin introduced death into the world (Romans 5:12), resulting in physical death for every human being who followed.

In addition, the penalty for sin is eternal, spiritual death and separation from God (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4). Without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we would all have to pay that penalty ourselves (John 3:16-17).

Even so, it can be challenging to make this reality tangible. Is mankind’s morality really that bad? Does it actively lead to suffering and death? Indeed, it does.

In a world where mass media glorifies hatred and bloodshed, violence grows more common by the day. Countless people suffer and die due to violent outbursts, which permeate the news with alarming regularity. (To learn the cause behind human violence, read “Why So Many Mass Shootings?”)

Corruption and inequality abound in a world where people shrug off God’s laws. Dictators marginalize and murder their citizens. Selfish wars tear apart entire countries. Politicians manipulate human laws to accumulate wealth and power.

Humans have been given free rein to live as they please for nearly 6,000 years. For all their boasting about being “enlightened” and “progressive,” things have consistently gotten worse under the rule of humanity. 

In fact, the infamous “Doomsday Clock” maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists currently rests at 90 seconds to midnight, indicating that “a time of unprecedented danger” is near (The Bulletin).

Because of shirking God’s law and going its own way, humanity has completely failed to build a safe and peaceful world. 

This is ultimately because a different power is exerting influence behind the scenes. As much as humans like to think that they are making their own decisions, they are actually following the way of Satan. (To learn about Satan’s tactics, read “Don’t Be Ignorant of Satan’s Devices.”)

Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), leading humanity to its destruction by disobeying God. Satan runs this physical world, pushing man ever closer to his inevitable demise.

However, there is a different path for those willing to trust God’s judgment and ways.

God offers a better way of life

God offers a better way of living, one that leads to eternal life.

Even before the very first sin, God offered a different choice. Had Adam and Eve partaken of the tree of life, they could have started on the path to eternal life (Genesis 3:22). Instead, they rebelled and brought sin into the world.

God’s way of life is categorically better than man’s. It succeeds where man’s way fails. Every person—including you and me—has the same choice today. In a world where death runs rampant, we can still choose the way of eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

However, this promise requires something of us. If we wish to attain eternal life, we must give up the foolish notion that we know best. Walking God’s way requires that we have the humility to recognize that living by our own human standards does not work.

God gave us the 10 Commandments, which provide a standard for living. Not one of these commandments is arbitrary; they are specifically designed to foster peace, safety and righteousness in our world.

When we live by God’s words, the “works of the flesh” are suppressed. Instead, we can abound in the “fruit of the Spirit”—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

God’s way of life is categorically better than man’s. It succeeds where man’s way fails. It is the way that leads to everlasting life.

Which way will you choose?

Proverbs 14:12 isn’t the only scripture that references two life paths.

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus Christ refers to two roads. One is broad and easy but leads to destruction. The other is narrow and difficult but leads to eternal life.

(To learn more, read “What Is the Narrow Gate Jesus Talked About?”)

Everything in our lives comes down to which of these two paths we choose. One seems right to us by our own human judgment, but God’s judgment tells us otherwise.

Mankind’s way often makes sense to us, but it has cost the world dearly. Countless billions have lived and died in suffering because humanity refuses to follow God’s way. The wisdom of man is only an illusion, leading its followers astray.

In the end, God’s way results in freedom from pain, suffering and death. God’s way is the definition of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). He gives His followers exactly what they need to overcome the world’s destructive ways and attain eternal life.

You stand at a crossroads, where you must choose between two paths to follow. One leads to eternal life and the other to death. 

Choose life.

For more information about living God’s way of life, check the “Christian Living” section of Life, Hope & Truth.

Topics Covered: Christian Living, God’s Plan

About the Author

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci attends the Raleigh, North Carolina, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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