Faith / Family / Health / Life Lessons / Spiritual Bondage

The Old West Gunslingers & The Way of Death

The gunslingers of the Wild West made their mark on history in a time when America was still an untamed frontier;  Taking advantage of the open country, many outlaws went West as opportunists:   robbing banks, stagecoaches and trains;   However, some were stanch lawmen who gave their lives in the effort to keep the peace.     Some of the notable members from both brackets include:

Photo: Karen Arnold

‘Wild Bill’ Hickok, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, ‘Billy the Kid’ McCarty, Wyatt Earp and others.  Interestingly enough, sometimes the line was blurred between the gunmen who upheld the law and those who were considered “killers”.  The fact is, some of these gunfighters even switched sides periodically in their short careers, from lawmen to outlaw.  Men like Frank Dalton and his brothers (aka. The Dalton gang), who turned to crime after they failed to get paid from there deputy positions.

Perhaps some of the most famous gunfighters though, stood behind the badge, like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok.  These men were trained to be quick and steady on the draw, men with instincts, who weren’t afraid to take their stand against notorious outlaws with fancy guns and fast horses.  Men with a calm, cool demeanor who commanded respect where ever they went, most notably because of their courage under fire.  They were famous in their own right for the number of criminals they subdued and shot while upholding the law.  These were the gunslingers of the Wild West.

Now I image, that many of these outlaws could make a great case for their wayward behavior.  People like, Jesse James and his brothers, who came out of the Confederate Army defeated and vexed;  Who were led under the command of ‘bloody ‘Bill Anderson to execute guerrilla-type warfare against the Union troops during the battle between the States.    Perhaps upon returning home to Clay County, Missouri, dishonored and jobless, they turned to a life of crime out of what they might have considered a “necessity”.

Photo:Lydia Jacobs

I reminded of what it says in Proverbs 14:12:  “There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.”  From experience, we all know that there are many things in life which have turned out to be not what they seem.   Take for instance, a pretty snow packed mountain.  To a novice skier it may appear to be a great place to do some backcountry runs, only to find it’s a dangerous hot spot for a potential avalanche.  It’s been know to happen.  Or what about a youngster backpacking in the high country with his Dad who wants to learn to live off the land.  The boy looks over to see a beautiful bush with gorgeous red berries, appetizing to the eye.  It may appear to be good and tasty, but in the end it turns out to be poisonous and deadly.   There again, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

I ran across Warren E. Berkley’s comments on Proverbs 14:12 in his expository files, which seems fitting to examine further.  He states:


In our society, there are the philosophies of HUMANISM and SUBJECTIVISM and these approaches have in common, ONE MAIN FALLACY —->
THESE APPROACHES MAKE MAN THE HIGHEST SURVEYOR OF LIFE. Man is set up as the highest surveyor of life; the measure of all things! The problem with this is — that which seems right to a man, may turn out to be “the way of death!” For, “there is a way that seems right TO A MAN, but its end is the way of death!” Man is not the highest surveyor of life!


Man sees the appearance … God can see beyond the appearances.

Man has a limited knowledge of the past … God has a perfect view of the past.

Man has limited knowledge of the future … God has what the Bible calls “foreknowledge!”

Man can be affected by prejudice, selfishness, ulterior motives … God is perfectly impartial and just in all His judgments.

Man can be blinded by passion and self-will … Man can be tempted … THESE THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN TO GOD !! NOW, WHO HAS THE BETTER VIEW OF THINGS? You see, there is A HIGHER JUDGE … FAR ABOVE MAN !”

The fact is that many of the gunslingers of the past died prematurely from taking a path that seemed “right” to them.  They died a physical death.  But death can mean many things:  the death of a relationship, the end of a career, financial death – bankruptcy, not to mention a kind of spiritual death that can occur.  To make “right” decisions we need to make godly decisions.  Only God Almighty is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.

Photo: George Hodan

Sometimes we operate out of our feelings instead of using godly wisdom.  We so convince ourselves that we need something right away:   perhaps a girlfriend or boyfriend, job, or investment deal that we heard can make us rich quick;  When in the end it turns out disastrous.  The consequences of our actions seem to speak for themselves.  We made the wrong choice.

“This is so, in respect to physical death. In driving an automobile — a wrong choice can lead to death. Surely we have learned, in regard to drugs and alcohol, A WRONG CHOICE CAN LEAD TO DEATH. Those involved in the sin of homosexuality OUGHT TO BE GETTING THE MESSAGE TOO — a wrong choice can lead to death.

But, THERE IS ANOTHER KIND OF DEATH … the Bible speaks of SPIRITUAL DEATH. In Ephesians chapter two — being “dead in trespasses and sins,” and EVENTUALLY the “second death” of fire and brimstone – in Rev. 21:8. That passage says: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Now – look at that verse a moment. In regard to those in this verse, who are called COWARDLY —> how did they become “cowardly?” THEY CHOSE TO LIVE THAT WAY … and that choice eventuates in the second death. When we look at Rev. 21:8 — we need to look at it as A VARIETY OF WRONG CHOICES, WHICH LEAD TO THE SECOND DEATH. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”


I’ve made four observations, in reference to a familiar passage:

1. Some things are not what they seem.

2. Man is not the highest surveyor of life.

3. Sincerity doesn’t stop consequences.

4. A wrong choice can lead to death.”

Excerpt  From Warren E. Berkley’s (The Expository Files)  

Often what seems right to man can lead to death.  So we must look beyond appearances, beyond our selfish desires, our passions, and even beyond the natural, to the supernatural realm.  We must look to God for the answers, for the discernment and for the wisdom to make right choices.   We can trust the One who knows all things, the creator of the Earth, and Sky, and the Sea.

Photo:Junior Libby

Many of the gunslingers and outlaws of the Wild West seemed to think they were on the right path;  but did they know that the path they were on was leading to death?  What path are you on today?

Where is that path leading you?  For “THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN, BUT ITS END IS THE WAY OF DEATH.”   Proverbs 14:12.   

References:  Wikipedia, HistoryNet, The Expository Files (Warren E. Berkley)