How Does a Biblical Understanding of “the Heart” Help Our Relationships?

In the Bible, the “heart” means your inner immaterial person that is made up of your thought life, your emotions, and your will. This means that your thought life reveals your heart. Your decisions (your will) reveal your heart. And your emotions tell you about your heart. This becomes even more important if we take seriously Proverbs 4:23:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

It is clear that the heart influences all we do—and that includes how we handle conflict. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that our hearts have “thoughts and intentions.” This verse underlines the “thought life” and “will” aspects of our definition. If it is true that your heart is your mind, emotions, and will, you ought prayerfully to see if you can discern patterns in your thinking, decision-making, and emotions during conflict that reveal what is truly going on in your heart. In other words, your thought life tells you where your heart really is during conflict; your decisions reveal the true focus of your heart (for example, do you decide to avoid people you are upset with?); and your emotions are a vivid picture of what’s happening on the inside (for example, are you afraid of what the other person might say if you raise your concerns?).

Since my “heart” also signifies my “intentions,” my “will,” it makes sense to say that there are things my heart is wanting. I think about the things I want, I make decisions related to the things I want, and my emotions are especially strong when I don’t get the things I want. Another word for “wants” is “desires.” We are wanting, desiring beings.

It’s All about Worship

The word “worship” comes from an Old English word that literally means “worth-ship.” It would be accurate to say, then, that what I ascribe worth to is what I worship. What am I serving? What do I love? What do I talk about? What am I willing to sacrifice for?

Jesus used the word “treasure” in conjunction with the word “heart” in Matthew 12. My inner person is described as my “heart” but also as my “treasure.” How can you tell when someone is treasuring something? Wouldn’t the list of questions to ask be the same as those listed in the previous paragraph?

This is all tied to the idea of worship and the heart. The Lord wants to be Lord over my mind, will, and emotions; because of the gospel, he is transforming my mind, will, and emotions to be like his. This Lordship starts in my heart (mind, will, emotions), and the heart is the place of my treasures. So what do your thinking, decision making, and emotions reveal about who or what is truly lord of your life? What are you treasuring?

Our lives are to be lived as one continuous act of worship; whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Lord is to be the One we primarily desire to serve, are devoted to, bow down to, show love toward, talk about, and sacrifice for. He is to be our greatest Treasure.

[Today’s post is written by Ernie Baker, and excerpted from his new mini-book HELP! Disability Pressures Our Marriage.]

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