Heart of the Matter

It’s the time of year when it’s hard to walk into any store: grocery or department and not notice a host of hearts. From t-shirts to boxes, hearts adorn most every surface reminding us that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. One favorite confection certainly speaks to the heart of Valentine’s: conversation hearts. Every year eight billion, yep, that’s billion with a B, hearts tucked neatly away in heart-covered boxes line the shelves of our favorite stores. That is 100,000 pounds of sugar, and most stores sell out within six weeks of stocking the shelves. The original hearts, from over 100 years ago, heralded pleasant platitudes like “Married in Satin, Love will be Lasting” or “Married in White, Love will be Right.” The sayings got shorter as the years progressed and “Be Mine” and “Love’s Kiss” became more popular. A recent update currently leaves us with modern versions of “Tweet Me,” “Text Me,” and “Soul Mate.” It is a fun way to communicate our affection with a favorite confection.

While most of the sentiments of the conversation hearts are innocent and fun, when it comes to our own hearts, perhaps they should come with a warning label. It’s not uncommon to receive the advice just “listen to your heart.” Philosophers such as Aristotle saw the heart as the center of the human body and the seat of the emotion. Our heart, it is said, provides the key to what we really want and need. I spent much of my time in the 80s rocking out to the Roxette hit “Listen to Your Heart,” and while it seems harmless and even good advice, the Bible offers a different insight into what our heart has to say.

Jeremiah 17:9 warns that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it? I the Lord will search the heart and test the mind.” At the core, our hearts are unreliable. I may want with all my heart something that isn’t good for me or others. My heart may prompt me to make a decision that could destroy my family’s trust in me or ruin my integrity. Our real issue is that our hearts are sinful. Jesus told the Pharisees that it is from the heart that we produce evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, and blasphemies. Often, following our own heart is often selfish: both self-serving and self-preserving, especially when seen in light of our call as Christians to be radically selfless.

Keeping our heart in check is critical. Before we entertain the idea of listening to our heart as the final arbiter on decisions, we need to make sure we rend our heart. A heart outside the Spirit of God is certainly unreliable. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promised he would “give us a new heart and put a new spirit in within us; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” A promise achieved through faith in Christ and which implies that, in our flesh, we naturally have a heart hardened toward God. Like the psalmist we must pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” Proverbs admonishes that we “guard our heart diligently.”

It seems that just listening to our heart at the expense of using our head is foolishness. Scripture leads me to believe they work in tandem. We protect, rend, and guard our heart by acknowledging, confessing, and repenting of sin. We invite Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit to transform both our heart and mind, and with our eyes focused on His truth, we proceed: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2. Heart renewal leads to mind renewal which leads to life transformation.

Listen to your heart becomes trite and dangerous when seen in the light of our sinful nature. An honest assessment, a “heart check” if you will, is the first order of business. Not what does my heart say, but what does God say through His Word, and does my heart line up with the truth of Scripture? As disciples of Christ we follow a different standard and an absolute truth that promises to help us test and approve God’s will, so before you listen to your heart, test your heart. It may not make for a catchy tune or sell candy at Valentine’s, but it will certainly save you a lot of heartache.

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