"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will." - Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)
The start of the chapter makes known the sovereignty of God. Even kings, the most powerful people of the day, sat under the authority of God. All of us will answer to God. The rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the weak and the strong are all accountable to God. I find it interesting that right after stating this Solomon moves to one of the most basic and important pieces of wisdom we need.
We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. - Proverbs 21:2 (MSG)
Proverbs 21 wastes no time cutting deep. I like to view verse 2 as the main theme of the chapter. This verse tells us to consistently ask "why." There is power in the word "why." Answering the question "why" describes what we believe, what we think, how we act, who's involved, the list goes on.
I've worked with students for close to 15 years and my favorite question to ask them is "why." I've found that after asking "why" 5 times the true answer finally comes out. Asking "why" helps us cut to the core. It gets beyond our justifications and excuses. Asking "why" cuts to our motives.
I remember as a kid answering "why" questions with "because I want to." Because I want to is about as simple and honest of an answer as you can give. It isn't sugar coated or full of excuses. It is an answer the screams I'm selfish.
The reality is that not much has changed. I still typically do things because I want to—because I'm selfish and want what I want. I've just gotten older and have learned how to make things look good or sound good. I've learned what it means to justify my actions. I've learned how to make excuses or make things sound better than they really are.
I've learned how to make, "because I want to" sound justifiable...
The rest of the chapter talks about lying, cutting corners, being proud, being lazy, mocking, and a list of nasty stuff. The results of any of these aren't good. All of these verses beg us to ask "why."
If we're all accountable to God and He examines our motives we need to start living as "why" people.
Why am I buying this?
Why am I saying this?
Why am I watching this?
Why am I involved in this?
Why am I doing this?
Why am I not helping them?
Why am I not being generous?
Why am I not...
Why am I...