In Proverbs 4:23, we are encouraged to guard our hearts. But what does that really mean?
We tend to think of our hearts as something romantic, linked to our dating relationships. We associate them with love and happiness and sometimes even sadness (i.e., a broken heart). In a way, we view our hearts as emotional thermometers–bursting with happiness when things are going right with a certain guy, or tanking out the bottom when he does not return our affection.
If we view our hearts in this way, then guarding them would mean to protect them from getting hurt. After all, if romantic happiness is the goal, then the condition to avoid would be romantic brokenness. Pain. Sadness. Separation. We have convinced ourselves that guarding our hearts means to avoid these things.
But what if the heart is something more? Take a look at Proverbs 4–the entire chapter. It’s not about relationships. In fact, it doesn’t even mention them. This chapter was written from a father to a son. The father is telling his son how to live a righteous, blessed life. The father tells his son to cling to wisdom, avoid wicked people, and pursue righteousness. In the midst of all this advice, we find the counsel to guard your heart above all else. If the father was referring to relationships, that sure would be a random place to talk about it.
It’s safe for us to assume that the father views the heart as more than just a romantic entity. In fact, the ESV Study Bible notes state that “[h]eart in Proverbs regularly refers to the center of one’s inner life and orientation to God, from which a person does all thinking, feeling, and choosing. Taking words of wisdom into the heart is vital…and wisdom’s presence in the heart is worth guarding because out of the heart flow all the thoughts and words and choices of a person’s life.”
This definition of guarding your heart is quite different from the previous one, huh? Luke 6:45 says that “out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks.” Whatever is in your heart is what will manifest itself in your life. That’s why we need to guard our hearts–not to keep them from being emotionally hurt, but to keep them pure and unstained by sin.
Your heart is more than a reflection of the romance in your life. It is a reflection of your purity and your devotion to God–how will you protect it?