His Heart Was in the Right Place

December 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 7 Comments
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It has been estimated that somewhere between 70% – 95% of the people in the world are right-handed as opposed to left-handed. The right side was the side of honor and favor in ancient Hebrew culture and most of the time in the Bible (Exodus 15:6, Deuteronomy 33:2, I Kings 2:19, Psalm 16:8-11, Psalm 44:3, Psalm 89:13, Psalm 118:15-16, Isaiah 41:10-13, Matthew 22:44, Matthew 25:33-34, Luke 22:69, Acts 7:55-56, Hebrews 1:3, I Peter 3:22, Revelation 5:7). I am not certain of the reason for this, but it may be that (in recognition of the predominance of right-handedness among human beings) the right hand is the more dextrous, and therefore more “skilled,” hand when speaking generically.

One of the things we must not do, however, when interpreting and expositing Scripture, is to foist our modern colloquialisms on the ancient text in order to try to make it say something that it does not really say. This is one of the types of what is referred to as “proof-texting.” Here is an example:

A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

Ecclesiastes 10:2

Does this verse mean that a Christian should be politically conservative rather than politically liberal? While we could argue that the verse might indeed have some bearing on that question, it would not be right to use the verse to “prove” that smart people vote Republican and fools vote Democrat. The idea of labeling politically conservative folks as those on the “right” or “right wing,” and politically liberal folks as being “left-wingers” or “on the left” probably comes from the days of the French Revolution, not the days of King Solomon.

The better interpretation of Ecclesiastes 10:2 has to do with those who exercise Godly wisdom. When our hearts are inclined to God’s wisdom, we will be more skillful and adept at handling the issues, problems, and challenges that life throws into our paths. Fools, however – those who reject Godly counsel and wisdom – will tend to flail around clumsily with whichever worldly concept happens to be popular that day, and muck things up big time.

What Ecclesiastes 10:2 brings to mind for me is not the idea of conservatism versus liberalism, but the expression we use when someone has good intentions, but accidentally achieves a bad result. We like to use this excuse for a person in that situation: “At least his heart was in the right place.” As Christians we know that our hearts can not be trusted to lead us in the right direction (Jeremiah 17:9), but we also know that God evaluates our behavior on the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), more so than the outwardly visible appearance of our actions (I Samuel 16:7).

Follow your heart;” “listen to your heart;” and “trust your heart,” are the mantras and messages of all kinds of Disney-entertainment-style idiocy, which is pervasive in our culture. If we are wise, we will train our hearts to stay on the right hand side of God – the side of His lovingkindness, power, protection, and provision.

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  1. […] As time went by it became harder and harder to come up with new common expressions, but during a time when we were studying the Book of Ecclesiastes, I discovered that Ecclesiastes Chapter 10 contains a relative cornucopia of “common expressions.” So far, I have written about “a fly in the ointment” and “his heart was in the right place.” […]

  2. […] Timing 16. The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men 17. Fooling or Ruling? 18. A Fly in the Ointment 19. His Heart Was in the Right Place 20. A Little Bird Told Me 21. Fortifying the Fulcrum 22. Indulgent, Incompetent, or Industrious? […]

  3. […] Timing 16. The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men 17. Fooling or Ruling? 18. A Fly in the Ointment 19. His Heart Was in the Right Place 20. A Little Bird Told Me 21. Fortifying the Fulcrum 22. Indulgent, Incompetent, or Industrious? […]

  4. […] On his way to Bethel (which means the “house of God”) Rachel died giving birth to Jacob’s thirteenth child (twelfth son). Before she died, she named this child “Benoni” which means “Son of My Sorrow.” Imagine this boy going through life being known as his parents’ greatest sorrow! Rachel’s death was very hard on Jacob. Perhaps after a period of grieving he saw his opportunity to – for the first time – name one of his own children. Therefore, Jacob renamed the boy “Benjamin” (Son of My Right Hand). […]

  5. […] Holy Spirit is not telling us here that the Lord literally used His right hand as opposed to His left hand, or that He even used a physical hand to dash the Egyptians to pieces. Nor is He telling us that […]

  6. […] is also important to explain the significance of Jesus’s position at God’s right hand, equally enthroned with God the Father, having His rightful place as Judge and […]

  7. […] says Cinderella or the little mermaid. “Listen to your heart,” says Oprah. NO! Trusting and following your heart will make you a fool and may cut you off from God’s help. In grace, you will fail quickly, but in […]


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