What is “the heart” in the Bible?
We read a lot about the heart in the Bible, because in Biblical times they thought that our decisions, feelings and thoughts came from the heart. The heart in the Bible was seen as a sort of “control centre” from which all of our decisions were made. So when we read about the heart in the Bible, it is about the place where we have our will, our attitude and intentions, and where our thoughts, actions and words come from.
This heart is who you are as a person. Your heart is, quite simply, you.
Your heart is where you choose between good and evil. Your conscience sends a message that something is right or wrong, and your heart decides what you choose. If your heart is in connection with God, you are able to choose the good every time. If you open your heart to other, impure influences, you become spiritually blind and can’t see clearly when you have to choose between good and evil.
Pure or impure hearts
We are all born with clean, pure hearts. Your heart becomes impure when you sin on purpose, again and again. For example, when you keep doing something you know is wrong, again and again, without repenting. It can be things like dishonesty, giving in to jealousy, watching impure things, allowing yourself to be bitter. It happens when you don’t want to stop doing it, even if you know it is wrong.
But when you decide to give up your own sinful will and give your life to God, He cleanses your heart. Pray like David did in Psalm 51:10 (CEB), “Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” Then you get a new mindset, a new will – which is a desire to always choose the good and do God’s will. This new heart is clean and pure from the start. Then you don’t have to cleanse your heart over and over again. But you have to fight to keep it pure. “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” Psalm 119:9 (NLT).
Your heart doesn’t become impure because you are tempted. It becomes impure when you say Yes to the temptation and allow it into your heart and thoughts. That is when you sin on purpose again and again without repenting. Then your heart becomes unclean and hard.
It can happen that you fall in sin, but a fall in itself doesn’t mean that your heart becomes impure. It depends on how you react - if you fall and you are really sorry, and repent, then you have a pure heart that is open to God, and He immediately forgives you. But if you don’t see it as so serious, if you don’t care, and don’t repent, then you are hardening your heart – your heart becomes impure. Your heart closes itself to God.
Guard your heart
It’s written in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV),“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
In other words, do everything you can to keep your heart pure, because everything you do comes from your heart. Your decisions, your actions and reactions, the way you feel, think and reason about things, your words come from what is in your heart. These can be pure or impure, depending on how your heart is and the decisions you’ve made there. They affect your relationship with God.
If your heart is pure, then everything that goes out from your life is pure. If your heart is impure, then everything that goes out from your life is impure. Your actions are a result of what is in your heart. Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew 12:34-35 (CEV), “Your words show what is in your hearts. Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts.” We could also say that not only our words show what is in our hearts, but also our thoughts and our deeds.
That’s why it says so strongly in Proverbs: “Above all else, guard your heart.” Because what is in your heart becomes your life.