The intentions of the heart belong to a man,
but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord.
All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion,
but the Lord evaluates the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
It’s easy for us to justify what we do. We know what we mean because we know what is in our mind and heart when we do it. So, when we do something that gets interpreted incorrectly, we’re shocked! How could they take it that way? That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I intended.
Let me give you an example. As you may recall, one of my first jobs was delivering pizzas, subs and salads for Cardo’s. When I was working there, I generally spent most of my time under one manager. Let’s call him Fred. That wasn’t his name. He was the manager most of the time that I was working because I worked in the evenings after school.
There was one evening when I was being quiet. Honestly I can’t remember why. I was just trying to stay out of the way. Do my job. I wasn’t being real assertive. I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. Often times a lot of the other guys would engage in some sort of humor that I wasn’t comfortable participating in – so I’d just stay out of the conversation entirely. On this evening, Fred asked me a question, and I answered it – but did so quietly. He didn’t hear my whole answer as I was walking out the door.
When I got back from that run, I got pulled out back by Fred who was very visibly upset with me. I had no idea what was going on. The first words out of his mouth were, “Do we have some sort of problem here?” I said, “no.” He went on to tell me that I had been short with him all night, and that he had thought I’d answered his question in the opposite way of what I said. He yelled at me for a few minutes, but as I proceeded to assure him that I hadn’t done what he thought I had done, he calmed down and everything got back to normal. At least as normal as things can get after something like that happens.
I knew my intentions. I knew what I was thinking. I was doing what I thought was right, but it was being perceived as the complete opposite.
Have you ever been there? Good times, huh?
The good thing is that God can work in those situations. As I’m sure God helped me to use the right words to calm Fred down, God can give us words to help bring understanding to situations such as these. We may not even intend to say it, but God can use it in ways that don’t make sense to us but make perfect sense to the hearer.
I’m convinced that when our motives are right, God will help us. It may not be evident at the time, but in retrospect it becomes clear. In fact, there may be things that come up as a result of this kind of misunderstanding that wouldn’t have come up otherwise. And God can use those to take us to deeper levels of understanding.
When God knows our motives and we commit our ways to Him and His work, He will be at work in us and through us. When we are doing what He wants us to do, He will support us in that because we are on mission.