“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
Well, here we are. We’re about a week into 2019, and some have adopted resolutions, some have abandoned resolutions, and some of us have avoided resolution out of principle. Nevertheless, we probably do look out over the new year, casting visions and imagining what might come over these next 12 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if in your planning for the year ahead, you’ve heard, or perhaps offered, the advice to “follow your heart.” Lady Antebellum would put it, “Let your heart, sweetheart, be your compass when you’re lost, and you should follow it wherever it may roam…” Lauren Alaina would tell you to “trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle…” No offense to either of these, but this is just about the WORST advice EVER! Why in the world would you want to trust that which is inherently deceitful and untrustworthy?!
I’ve been reflecting on this lately, and in particular on Proverbs 4:23 and Jeremiah 17:9, and how they relate to one another. Somehow, in my childhood, I memorized this first verse in hodge-podge format. That is, my version is pieced together from several different translations of the Bible. The way I learned it was this: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And based upon this version, I’ve had a hard time reconciling the juxtaposition of this verse with the verse in Jeremiah 17 that refers to the heart as “deceitful above all things.” I think that is at least partly because of how I was personally interpreting “wellspring of life.” Namely, I was looking at that as positive—it’s the source of life, after all. That’s a good thing, right?
But in comparing different translations of the verse lately, I’ve seen that this may not be an appropriate interpretation—in fact, it’s most likely not. In my research, I—for the first time—discovered the CJB, or the Complete Jewish Bible. According to this translation, we must guard our heart above everything else, “for it is the source of life’s consequences.” That makes more sense. The Good News Translation puts it this way: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Each of these translations is more in keeping with Jeremiah 17:9 than is the BJV (the Brooklynn Joy Version).
So now we have something that is so powerful, and yet so deceitful, that it must be guarded, kept, and protected, with absolute priority. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find support for this interpretation. Proverbs 23:19 (NAS-1977) warns, “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 28:26 (NASB) suggests likewise that “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”
As I’ve wrestled with these verses, and with the temptation to despise the heart—almost as an enemy, I’ve had my heart softened by the analogy of a child. No, children aren’t inherently deceitful. But they are inherently self-serving and impressionable, are they not? Proverbs 22:6 (BSB) states that we should “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In just the same way, we must train our hearts in the way they should go, so that they will not depart from the path of the righteous. This must be our #1 priority—above all else (Provers 4:23). Because surely we want our hearts to follow after the true treasures that God has for us (Matthew 6:21), rather than the counterfeit ‘treasures’ that the world offers (1 Timothy 6:20).
So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever you do with your 2019, DO NOT follow your heart!