According to Wikipedia, the definition of a “heart” is “a muscular organ in humans and other animals, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system” (accessed 3/1/2017). Along with our brains (minds), our physical hearts are the most important organs in our bodies. We can lose a leg, lung or earlobe and survive, but without a functional brain and heart, we’re dead. However, the word “heart” has so many different definitions and meanings that we should start off by defining “heart” from both a contemporary point of view and a Biblical point of view.
The contemporary meanings of “heart” include enthusiasm, desires, intuition, integrity, courage and most predominantly emotions and, in particular, love. Something relatively new in current culture is the use of both hands to form the shape of a heart (❤) that’s usually used when people want to convey an emotional connection with someone else. Along with these and other definitions of the word “heart” we have many idioms such as “heart of gold,” “heart of stone,” “broken heart,” “eat your heart out,” and so forth. Also, there’s the modern-day proverb encouraging people to “follow their hearts”—which, by the way, is not biblical, and as we’ll point out shortly, can actually be very dangerous.
The word “heart” is used well over 800 times in the Bible, so we’d better get a decent understanding of its Biblical meaning. According to the Bible, the heart is the center of all the operations of human life, and that would include our spiritual life. Our heart is where we think (Genesis 6:5), believe (and doubt) (Mark 11:23), imagine (Genesis 8:21), receive instruction (Proverbs 23:12), and it’s where we hate, love, and desire as the modern meanings of the word indicate.
The heart is our core center and the controller that runs our lives. Contained within our hearts are some of our default modes. Like our physical hearts, our emotional “heart” usually operates on autopilot, and we’re generally not really conscious of it unless we stop to pay attention and listen. That’s why we may sometimes swear without really wanting to, or even realizing it. Why do we do this? We’ve used these words before and they’re still somewhere in our hearts. This default mode of the heart is also why “following your heart” can many times be a bad idea. Kids are following their hearts when they chase a ball rolling into the street without checking for traffic. Children are simple-minded and innocent, and don’t realize the danger in following their hearts, which in this case is a ball rolling into the street where there may be dangerous traffic. Sadly some people remain simple-minded throughout their entire lives, following their hearts down any alley, dirt road, or path it leads them to.
The Most Important Thing to Understand About the Heart
Proverbs 3:5 (REV)
Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not lean upon your own understanding.
We should ALWAYS, trust in Yahweh with all our hearts! Ever wonder why we should not lean upon our own understanding?
Jeremiah 17:9 (REV)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt; who can know it?
The most important thing to know about our hearts is that they’re deceitful—at least, that’s the way they are when we’re born. Then, as we grow and mature, hopefully we’re taught to control our deceitful hearts by learning to give instead of take and love instead of hate. But even a mature, giving, and loving person can be deceived by their own heart, if they’re not careful and observant. In Acts 13:22, God said that David was “a man after my heart.” Yet even David’s heart was deceived when he saw Bathsheba. That’s why we are not supposed to “follow” our hearts, but to “watch” and “guard” our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 (REV)
More than everything else you watch over, guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.
Changing Our Hearts
One of the greatest things about our hearts is that God, in His divine wisdom and love, has put them under our control, and that means we can change our hearts! However, it can be difficult to change them because they can be influenced in so many different ways. Movies, TV, Facebook, and virtually all forms of communication have the potential to influence and alter our hearts. If we don’t want the world around us to “alter” our hearts, then we should make our minds an “altar” for God.
Originally, the word “altar” meant a slaughtering place, i.e. a place to sacrifice an offering. So naturally, we’ll want to keep our “altar” to God, our minds, as clean and as pure as possible. And we keep our minds clean by being careful of what goes into them, and more importantly what stays in them, because what resides in the mind will eventually end up in the heart.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (REV)
We are destroying arguments (at the slaughtering place, the altar of our minds) and every high-minded thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to Christ.
Romans 12:2 (REV)
And do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind
Our thought-life is the key to changing our hearts. Several years ago John Schoenheit used a great analogy of an automatic drip coffee maker to explain how the mind and heart function together. Water (your thoughts) drips into the filter (your brain) and then drips into the carafe (your heart). However, the way the world has changed with new technology, I now think that a Keurig coffee maker might make a more appropriate analogy, especially for those who “indulge” in putting ungodly thoughts into their mind. Many things in our culture, such as viewing porn, watching lewd and crass movies, and continuously playing video games filled with immoral behaviors are not like normal thoughts or drops of water dripping through an automatic coffee maker. They’re more like pressurized water, injecting ungodly thoughts and ideas with a blasting force straight through the filter of the brain going directly into the heart. Face it; nobody’s brain can handle that kind of bombardment.
Protecting Our Hearts
Obviously, avoiding ungodly thoughts and behaviors goes a long way in protecting our hearts, but there’s more to it than that. Not only should we avoid bad thoughts and actions, we should strive to garner godly thoughts and behaviors in our lives. In a word, God calls us to live “righteously”.
So just how do we live righteously? Psalm 9:1 will give us a good start.
“I will give thanks to Yahweh with my whole heart. I will tell of all your marvelous works”.
Beyond being thankful, living righteously has always been about being obedient to God and His laws and commandments to us. In Matthew 22:36, a lawyer asks Jesus which commandment is the most important one.
Matthew 22:37-40 (REV)
And he said to him, “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and also the prophets.”
In the ancient world warriors in battle protected their physical hearts with a breastplate and their heads with a helmet. In our culture many who engage in activities that might put their physical heart in danger also wear equipment to protect themselves such as a hockey goalie or a catcher in baseball wearing a chest protector. Even more prevalent are helmets and other headgear to protect the brain.
Ephesians 6:14-17 (REV)
Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace. 16In addition to all this, taking up the shield of trust, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the Wicked One. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We cannot function without a brain and a heart. Our physical brains were designed to operate our bodies and process information via our thoughts, and from a spiritual standpoint, they were originally designed to hold God’s thoughts and obey His laws, and commandments.
Meanwhile, our physical hearts were designed to feed our body by pumping blood, and spiritually our hearts were designed to feed the world around us by pumping love!
“Brothers and Sisters, Pump Up the Volume!”