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Heart, Biblical Sense


HEART

Besides the physical functions of the heart, it has the spiritual implication of love, sacrifice, suffering, emotion, and morality. Unlike the modern understanding of the functions of the brain and heart, ancient people believed that the heart maintains our intentions and moves human actions. God knows one’s heart and judges accordingly. “God does not see as a mortal who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). “I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart, giving to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds” (Jer 17:10).

According to Jesus, the heart is the source of our good or bad actions. “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Mt 15:18-19). When the Lord comes, he “will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God” (1 Cor 4:5).

CONVERSION OF HEART

According to the Bible, the heart is the centre of our values, virtues, vices, spirituality, and actions. It sets our goals and priorities. Since the heart is the motivating organ, a conversion of heart is necessary to change the mindset of the immoral and the irreligious. God intervened during the Old Testament times through the prophets with this message when the Israelites turned away from Him. Though the Israelites underwent circumcision as a sign of their covenant with God, they went after other gods and engaged in immoral activities. So, God demanded a circumcision of their heart. “The LORD, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart and your whole being, in order that you may live” (Deut 30:6). Later Jeremiah instructed the Israelites, “Be circumcised for the LORD, remove the foreskins of your hearts” (Jer 4:4a).

In preparation to welcome the Kingdom of God, John the Baptist preached conversion (Mt 3:2) which in Greek is Metanoia. It means a change of heart. When the Pharisees, who loved money, sneered at Jesus, he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 26:15). In the ancient Church, Peter said that God, who knows the heart of the faithful, purifies the hearts by faith and grants them the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9).

The heart is also the seat of our desires, upon which we set our goals and formulate our actions. The godly seek God and walk according to His precepts. “Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the LORD. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in his ways” (Ps 119:1-3). Their treasure is God’s promise. “With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you” (Ps 119:10-11).

A complaint God had against Israel was that their hearts were far from him and their devotion to Him was merely lip service (Isa 29:13). Through Ezekiel, God promised Israel, “I will give them another heart and a new spirit I will put within them. From their bodies I will remove the hearts of stone, and give them hearts of flesh, so that they walk according to my statutes, taking care to keep my ordinances. Thus they will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their atrocities and abominations, I will bring their conduct down upon their heads—oracle of the Lord GOD” (Ezek 11:19-21).

The heart of the ungodly thirsts for worldly achievements and its pleasures. A father advises his lustful son, (correction will) “keep you from another’s wife, from the smooth tongue of the foreign woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty, do not let her captivate you with her glance! For the price of a harlot may be scarcely a loaf of bread, but a married woman is a trap for your precious life” (Prov 6:24-26). Instead of following the sinner, he should imitate the God-fearing. “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but only those who always fear the LORD; For you will surely have a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and guide your heart in the right way” (Prov 23:17-19).

For a Christian, the treasure to wish for is in heaven at the expense of what is attractive on earth. Paul advised, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Moses assured the Israelites, “You shall indeed find him (LORD) if you search after him with all your heart and soul” (Deut 4:29). So, David prayed to be purified and given a clean heart, keeping the Holy Spirit within him (Ps 51:12-13).

The heart is also the seat of love and compassion. Jesus summarized the Law and the Prophets in the love of God and fellow humans. In answer to a scholar of the law on which commandment is the greatest, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:37-40). In the Good Samaritan story, when the Samaritan saw the victim of robbers, he “was moved with compassion at the sight” (Lk 10:33) and took relief measures.

TREASURE AND HEART

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be” (Mt 6:21). Since we value our treasure and are concerned about its safety, our focus will but naturally be on it. If our treasure is with God, we will concentrate on the heavenly realm. The followers of Jesus should perceive God as their treasure and fill their treasury in heaven with virtues while still in the world. If we ignore that and consider worldly achievements as our treasure, our hearts will be stuck here, and we will miss our afterlife destination.

If our treasure is in this world only, we will avoid the narrow way to eternal life and enter through the wide gate and broad road to destruction (Mt 7:13-14). Whereas, if we consider God and his kingdom as our treasure, our lives will change like that of Levi, the tax collector, who became Matthew the apostle and evangelist. Jesus and his followers changed the life destination of many by helping them to find genuine treasure in heaven.

If the heart finds God and his Kingdom as the treasure, our approach will differ from those who seek treasure in worldly achievements. We will be compassionate about the needs of others like the Good Samaritan. His view of the injured man on the street differed from that of the priest and the Levite who passed by before him.


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