“The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.”
—Proverbs 16:1-2 NASB
In my prior blog I mentioned taking the logs out of our eyes—the tough work of reconciliation. Part of that process is acknowledging our personal agendas and the motives of our heart.
My nearly 50 years of ministry experience tells me that when people say they have no agenda, my discernment antennae go up and I am suspicious. For when someone says, “I have no agenda,” he or she is not being honest with us or themselves. Everyone has an agenda whether or not we acknowledge it. If we don’t realize it, we are self-deceived.
When Amy Coney Barrett was grilled and drilled for her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on her positions, she did not say that she had no agenda. Rather, she candidly acknowledged her agenda was constitutionalist—what the original writers of the constitution intended.
If we are being transparent, we will acknowledge that we have our own agendas. Our presuppositions frame or pre-arrange our agendas. “The plans of the heart belong to man.” The Hebrew word here for plans means “mark, arrangement, order, set in a row, preparation.” What is an agenda? It is a list, a preparation. a pre-arranged plan. When we go to the grocery store, we have an agenda—a pre-arranged list of items we plan to get. When we have a meeting, we have an agenda—a pre-arranged list of what will be covered in the meeting, what we want to discuss, prioritize, and decide upon. The plans or agenda of our heart are from OUR heart—they belong to man. They are human plans, human desires, human agendas.
Having an agenda is not necessarily a bad thing. The motives from a person’s agenda may be genuine and good. Having an agenda does not necessarily mean that the person has ulterior motives for bad, just personal motives, priorities, desires, plans.
“But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” That does not mean that everything we say from our heart is from the Lord. In an earlier blog, I wrote about how it is not always safe or wise to follow our heart as pop culture says. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). The Lord reveals (exposes) what is in our heart by what we say. That is why I can tell that when someone says they have no agenda, they are not being transparent
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight.”—because our eyes are blinded by the logs in them. The Hebrew word for “ways” means trodden paths—the familiar, well-worn patterns in our lives—they are so familiar and natural to us, we think they must be right—this is the way it is. We make excuses for our personality—”that is just the way I am,” as if that is the way that God made us to be and He wants us to stay that way.
“But the Lord weighs the motives.” The Hebrew word for “motives” means “spirits.” There are different kinds of spirits—a human spirit, the Holy Spirit, and evil spirits. It is the Lord who reveals whether the motives of our agendas are from ourselves, God, or the devil, or a mixture. He weighs the degree of purity. We all have an agenda—is it our agenda, the devil’s agenda, God’s agenda, or a mixed agenda? Sometimes a mixed agenda is the most subtle, because it may seem to be from the Lord, but it is not purely from the Lord. Let the Lord reveal it—bring it to the surface, expose it to the light of Christ.