His Heart Was in the Right Place

December 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 11 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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