what is the heart? when the bible speaks about the “heart” it is making reference to more then the physical organ that pumps our blood. the heart is the symbol of the very core of our being – “the heart of the matter” so to speak. that is why when we ponder an important decision we say that we need to “search our heart” - to go deep within ourselves to our very core where we can reflect and discern.
in the ancient near eastern world there was a certain shared body of wisdom. among the ancient egyptians there was the belief that when a person died their heart would be weighed against “maat” – the principle of truth and justice. if the person had a heavy heart (that is one burdened with wrongdoing) he/she would not enter eternity, but if the heart was light than the person would rise up to the place of the immortals. Jesus said in the gospel of matthew - “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” perhaps there is an echo of the egyptian concept in Jesus’ teaching, in any case, purity of heart and the ability to see God are deeply connected.
certainly “the heart” is an important concept in the scriptures as it is mentioned in over 400 verses. we read in deuteronomy 4:39 “so acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, there is no other.” here we are called not only to acknowledge this truth but to place it within the deepest recesses of our being. and in deut. 6:5 “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (inner being), and with all your soul (life), and with all your might (energy).” Jesus affirms the centrality of this commandment in matt. 22:37.
our calvinist kin are fond of promoting the idea that human beings are “completely depraved” – evil to the very core of our being and thus they teach we can not trust our hearts, because as God declares in Gen. 8:20 “for the inclinations of the human heart are evil”. Such a view of humanity as fundamentally evil is contrary to the teachings of john wesley, and more importantly runs counter to the teaching of Jesus. if we only consider matt. 15:18,19 we might think Jesus is wholly agreeing with calvin’s interpretation – “but what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. for out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.” but Jesus recognizes and declares that the heart is a storehouse of both good and evil and our freewill chooses what we will bring forth, as stated in matt. 12:35, and more clearly expressed in Luke 6:45 “the good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” So if we treasure good we will store it in our heart and bring it forth in due season, and likewise with evil; as Jesus said “where your treasure is, there also is your heart.”
isn’t it a great and wonderful thing that God does not judge us on our appearances, many and false as they often are, but looks into the depth of our being to perceive the real truth of the human heart which God saw at the very beginning (Gen. 1:31), and for which Jesus came to restore us in fullness (John 1:12, 16). through Christ our heavy hearts can be made light, for “real circumcision is a matter of the heart” where Christ works in secret. the more we are healed and sanctified through the love of Christ poured out for all people, the more we can use our hearts for holy discernment and good works.
Psalm 49:3 “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.”
©2010 halley low