heart: organ that circulates the blood; the vital center of one’s being, emotions and sensibilities (delicate, sensitive awareness or feeling)
attitude: state of mind or feeling with regard to some matter
The heart is mentioned in the Bible so many times that it has to be of importance to God. The Bible warns us time and time again to guard our hearts. Why is that? Our heart (love and desires) dictates to a great extent how we live, for we do what we enjoy. In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon cautions us to guard our heart above everything. Make sure your affections push you in the right direction. Put boundaries on your affections and don’t get sidetracked on detours that lead to sin. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal.
Christians tend to be so casual about the things of God today. We let the popular phrase “God knows my heart” excuse our laziness and lack of commitment to doing what we know we should. If our hearts are right, our performance will eventually line up. We must look deeper into our hearts and know the importance of the inner-man. That is where our true substance lies. We are so appearance oriented-how we look on the outside, and this is what means the least to God.
Your heart pumps the blood that travels throughout your body. If we put wrong things into our body, it poisons the blood and clogs up the arteries the blood has to travel through, thus damaging the heart. And we die. In the case of cancer, the cancer cells travel through the blood and infect all of the organs they come in contact with. Spiritual affects the physical. If we are sick in our heart (spiritual) we will be sick in our bodies (physical). If we have a blood infection, we need the proper medicine to get well. If our spiritual blood is infected, Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil can’t help us because it’s the wrong medicine. Only the Word of God will work. This why many times doctors can’t diagnose our illness–it’s spiritual, not physical. Since the heart is the center of our emotions, etc., if we pollute our spiritual blood with wrong thinking, we will clog up our pathway to God. We won’t hear his voice, he won’t be able to guide us, and sin will invade our heart. We will die.
So, what is in your heart? Anger? Hatred? Strife? Envy? It is important to know how to handle anger properly. If vented thoughtlessly, anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If bottled up inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within. Paul tells us to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroys them. Nursing our anger will give Satan an opportunity to cause division, strife, and confusion. That is his purpose; to kill, steal, and destroy. Remember, God examines our every word and thought.
The Parable of the Four Soils (Mark 4:4-8): Usually when we read this we think Jesus was talking about four different kinds of people. What if he was talking, instead, about different times, seasons, or phases in a person’s life; periods of different heart attitudes? What if he was talking about how we willingly receive God’s message in some areas of our life, yet resist it in others? For example, you may be open to God about your future but closed concerning how you spend your money. We may respond like good soil to God’s demand for worship, but like rocky soil to his demand to give to people in need. The Four Soils show us where we are in regard to our heart attitude. What kind of soil are you?
We have to be careful of our heart attitude. We have to guard it and keep the junk out. We must not only listen to the Word of God, we must also let it shape our lives. Circumstances can’t control our emotions or steal our joy. Never forget, it’s not that we go through, but how we go through that matters.
Wrong Heart Attitudes
Scriptures: Genesis 6:5-8, 1Timothy 6:10
evil: morally bad or wrong; something that causes harm or distress
As much as we hate to admit it, evil does go all the way back to the garden with Adam and Eve. And, as much as the men would have Eve carry the blame for the apple-eating episode, it was Adam who dropped the ball on this one. Sorry guys. You see, it was Adam that God spoke to about not eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam was ‘head of household’; he was his wife’s covering. In the garden the snake knew that God had told Adam not to eat from the tree, so he went to Eve instead. Now, here’s the thing, Adam was standing right next to Eve while the snake was talking to her! He never said a word to her. There was no “God said…” or “Don’t listen to him, Eve.” When Eve gave Adam the apple, she didn’t have to go to the other side of the garden; she just turned and gave it to him. And he ate it! To add insult to injury, when confronted by God for their actions, did Adam man-up and take responsibility for such in-your-face disobedience? No. He blamed Eve! We’ve been dealing with evil every since. You see, Eve was deceived, but Adam was rebellious and disobedient. Don’t we do the same thing? We see others doing things they shouldn’t but we don’t open our mouths. “It’s none of my business” we say.
You’ve heard it said that ‘money is the root of all evil’. This is misquoted. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money is a necessity; you can’t do much in this world without it. But where is your heart attitude with regard to money? Do you horde it? Do you crave it? Do you never have enough? Are you stingy with it? Greed leads to all kinds of evil. Just look around you. We live in a society that operates on excess. Not only is ‘more’ better, it is essential. We have to reach a place where we are content with what we have, and not be jealous of what others have.
Paul gives us some tips on how to avoid the love of money:
- Realize that one day riches will all be gone
- Be content with what you have
- Monitor what you are willing to do to get more money
- Love people more than money
- Love God’s work more than money
- Freely share what you have with others
Look at the story of Korah (Numbers 16:8-10). Like Korah, we often desire, or covet, the special qualities God has given others. Korah had significant, worthwhile abilities and responsibilities of his own. In the end, his ambition for more caused him to lose everything. Inappropriate ambition is greed in disguise. Korah’s story gives us some warnings:
- Don’t try to raise your self-esteem by attacking someone else’s.
- Don’t use part of God’s Word to support what you want, rather than allowing its entirety to shape your wants.
- Don’t expect to find satisfaction in power and position. God may want to work through you in the position you are already in.
Scripture: Hebrews 3:7-8
hard: cruel or harsh; difficult or tough; to make permanent or firm
I believe that this is one of the most deadly of wrong heart attitudes because of the final outcome if not caught. To have a hard heart means that we have stubbornly set ourselves against God. A hard heart does not happen all at once. It is the result of a series of choices we make to disregard God’s will. We are no longer able to turn to him for forgiveness. A hard heart causes rebellion. When our heart is hard, we find it hard to show mercy or compassion. We become very legalistic and demanding. A hardened heart is as useless as a hardened lump of clay or loaf of bread. Nothing can restore it or make it useful again. Look at Pharaoh. His heart was hardened to the extent of being permanent. The unyielding hardness of his heart destroyed everything he had and, ultimately, took his life. The Children of Israel would periodically lose faith in God and their hearts would harden. They would become stubborn and set in their ways, and couldn’t turn to God.
Today, one of the quickest ways to a hard heart is through offenses. Someone offends us and Whammm! We turn to stone. The hardening process has started. We can’t wait to text our BFF, put the culprit on blast on Facebook, and let everyone know what creeps they are. But hey, wait. Isn’t revenge returning evil for evil? If you follow through, you will not only be guilty of a hard heart attitude, but an evil heart attitude as well! See how this works? You have to constantly check the health of your spiritual blood. Make sure it’s not infected. These two wrong heart attitudes together are poison. They will keep a cycle going that, if not stopped, will cause you to end up a very bitter and lonely person. We are to cover each other’s faults for this very reason. Being ‘right’ is really not all it’s cracked up to be. Being at peace, however, is.
Scriptures: Romans 2:1, Matthew 23:1-5, 12-36, Romans 12:2, 1Samuel 18:18-15
hypocritical: pretending to be what one is not, as good or virtuous; simulating feeling one does not experience
How many times have we accused someone of being a hypocrite? We can become so indignant with this kind of person. Yet, this is the heart attitude we never think applies to us; it’s always the other guy. It’s the one that make us look in the mirror, and when we do, we’re not very happy. Why? Because being a hypocrite is judging people for doing the same things we do ourselves. A hypocrite is a phony who puts on an act, but lacks a right heart attitude.
It has been said that we tend to look at ourselves through rose-colored glasses, while looking at others through magnifying glasses; this is very true. Often the sins we see so very clearly in others are the very ones that have taken root in us, so be very careful about feeling angry about someone else’s sin. All of us no matter who we are, or what we’ve done-good or bad-must depend totally on God’s grace. So don’t be quick to judge.
Here is a test of where your heart is: It’s easy to collect food from friends, relatives and neighbors and go out periodically with your Sunday school class and give out the food to the homeless. What a great experience; doing the Lord’s work! But how do you react when one Sunday, those same dirty, unwashed homeless people come and pay a visit to your church? What if they see you and wave? Do you smile and wave back, or do you pretend you don’t know them, sink in your seat and try your best to disappear?
You see, Jesus did not condemn what the Pharisees taught so much as what they were- hypocrites. They took man-made laws as seriously as God’s laws and told the people to obey these laws but did not do so themselves. Or, they obeyed the laws, not to honor God, but to make themselves look good. Pharisees were ceremonially clean, yet their hearts were corrupt. Being a Christian merely as a show for others is like washing a cup on the inside only. It is possible to be obedient in the details, but still disobedient in our general behavior.
It is vitally important that a leader not have this wrong heart attitude. Or, if he or she sees it rearing its ugly head, cut it off immediately. People follow what you do. We as a country are always pointing our finger at other countries and shaking our heads at their immorality, corruption in government and mistreatment of their citizens. But all we have to do is check the headlines in our newspapers to see our own hypocrisy. Check your reflection in the mirror–often.
DESPISING HATING HEART
Scriptures: 1Kings 21:20, Matthew 5:8, Proverbs 4:23, Esther 5:9
despising: to scorn; regarding as unworthy, sometimes with malice (evil, intent to harm another)
hating: to dislike or detest, often with enmity(ill-will, mutual hatred) or malice; strong emotional aversion; abhor (to shrink from with horror)
No matter how we may deny it, our heart condition will eventually show what we are really about. Are your heart attitudes merely a carbon copy of what you see in the world? How can you tell what condition you’re heart is in? Examine how you talk. What are your words? The Bible tells us that whatever is in our hearts is going to come out of our mouths. In other words, you can only hide your true feelings if you keep your mouth shut. The minute you start talking, your heart attitude is going to convict you.
Hatred is not something that you come out of the womb feeling. Look at the pictures of those babies; all different, yet at peace with one another. As the song says, “You have to be carefully taught…” to hate another ‘just because’. Jesus teaches that if we hate another person, we are the same as a murderer in our heart. That’s a pretty strong indicator of just how destructive hate is.
Be careful what you hate about others because it could be a reflection of what you hate about yourself. Examine yourself and see what’s going on inside of you. If you’re truthful, you might be surprised to discover who it is you really hate. When you start seeing yourself as unworthy, you will tend to see others in that light also.
You cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. But isn’t that really the goal? Hate not only destroys the object of the hate, but the hater as well. If you don’t believe me, take inventory of your life. How is your health? Your job? Your marriage? Your finances? Afterwards ask yourself if your hate has been worth it. Be honest in your assessment. If you find that hate has left you lacking, remember, it’s never too late to change directions.