A Common Refrain
Hank Williams knew that it’s what’s inside that counts, because he said that when it comes to broken promises, “Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…” The Bible talks about it this way: Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ASV)
The Hebrew people had a highly developed view of the heart, and believed it to be central to intellect, emotion, and will. They recognized that we have a spiritual imperative inside of us which separates us from all other animals, and that the heart is not just a blood-pumping organ– it is the center of a person’s body and soul.
Samuel told Jesse that the Lord chose David to be king (instead of his older, seemingly more attractive brothers) using a different criteria than we use. Even though men could be swayed by outward appearance, the Lord could see David’s inner desires, thoughts and motives. He made his selection based on what was INSIDE David’s heart, not what was on the outside…
Jesus certainly viewed the heart as the place where man’s moral compass resided, and he warned that external actions were not as dangerous as internal motives: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:19-20, NIV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
The reason that men don’t demonstrate greater nobility or higher values is that we are more naturally inclined to be selfish and deceitful than to be godly. If you don’t believe that, just drive in traffic or watch the local news… The selfish, carnal heart must be awakened by the Spirit of God to rise above its basest desires; and the undeveloped heart will only produce what it is equipped to produce.
The fact that we need to keep our hearts diligently also implies that they may be unkempt. And the Bible says unattended hearts are proud, deceitful, vengeful. Human hearts are full of bitter schemes and vulgar language just waiting to be unleashed. Cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain might just be colorful vocabulary, but a potty mouth can also reflect that there’s a sewage backup problem further inside. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
How is your heart? Are you diligent in keeping it secure and strong? Is it, as the Bible characterizes well-tended hearts, humble, loving, full and glad? If you wonder, then do a quick inventory of what you say, and how you spend your time and money: “for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ASV)
Keep your heart with diligence; it governs what you say,
And from it come the actions you engage in every day.
Our human inclinations tend to lead us far astray,
Surrendering to tempting things that often come our way.
Jeremiah said from common folks to lofty kings,
The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things.
Jesus warned that we are not defiled by Satan’s darts,
But by the wickedness we carry in our selfish hearts.
As you take inventory of your heart, remember this:
Whatever most your heart desires is where your treasure is…
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