When people want to get to the bottom of something, they speak of getting to the heart of a matter. When someone is suffering, we say that our heart goes out to them. When someone is generous and kind, we say they are big hearted and that their actions are heart warming. When someone is devastated, we say they are broken-hearted. When someone regrets a decision they made, they say they had a change of heart. And, when we see someone who is loving and kind, we say that they are good-hearted and they warm our heart.
There is a general knowledge that the heart is the center of who we are emotionally. Christians even speak of becoming a Christian as asking Jesus into your heart, even though the Bible only uses that phrase on one occasion.1
The heart is a mega theme of the Bible. It appears around 1,000 times, depending upon which English translation you prefer. Sometimes, the Bible refers to the heart as the organ that sustains our physical life, but most of the time the meaning is not the physical organ, but rather a complex concept about our emotional center. In the Bible, the heart includes the totality of a person at the deepest level. In the heart we make our decisions, feel our emotions, think our thoughts, choose our words, envision our future, process our experiences, determine right and wrong, nurture worship and idolatry, drift toward wisdom or folly, taste brokenness and healing, and stoke the fires of both courage and fear.
The heart is the essence of who we are. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” In a very real sense, the life you live is just a reflection of the heart you have.
In Proverbs alone the heart is the seat of understanding,2 learning,3 memory,4 faith,5 obedience,6 rebellion,7 planning,8 imagination,9 lust,10 will,11 perversity,12 deceit,13 folly,14 anxiety,15 hope,16 joy,17 hurt,18 grief,19 peace,20 wisdom,21 happiness,22 discernment,23 cheerfulness,24 contemplation,25 pride,26 speech,27 rage,28 motives,29 purity,30 folly,31 friendship,32 gladness,33 envy,34 violence,35 reasoning,36 sadness,37 evil,38 sins,39 and hardness toward God.40
Additionally, when Jesus taught from the Old Testament, He said that our words come out of our hearts,41 our lusts come out of our hearts,42 and how we spend our money is determined by our hearts.43 He taught that out of our hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.44 He said that good and evil proceed from the heart,45 and sinful grief, anxiety, and drunkenness come out of our hearts.46
Lastly, when Jesus told people in Mark 12:28–31 to love God and neighbor with “all your heart” it only shows us that we need to continually be paying attention to and working on our heart. This is especially true when it comes to parenting. We need to continually examine our heart toward God and our child, otherwise we could break God’s heart and hurt our child’s heart. In all of life, especially parenting, the “want to” precedes the “how to.” Lots of good advice on how to do something is of no use unless we want to do it. This is the heart of parenting. Until we want to obey God and parent our child in a godly way, there remains much work to be done in our own heart. Only after we want to do what is right, are we then ready to learn how to do that very thing.
Be honest, how is your heart toward God? If you could pick one word (e.g., tender or hard, loving or angry, obedient or defiant, etc.) to describe your heart toward God, what would it be? If you could pick one word to describe your heart toward your child, what would it be? If you could pick one word to describe your child’s heart, what would it be?