I have a heart problem. By the age of 13, I already had 3 heart surgeries and even to this day I see a cardiologist on an annual basis. I have tests done every year to make sure everything is working properly and I take medicine every night to help my heart operate correctly. I have numerous scars on my chest that tell the tale of my experience with these heart problems. For the first 15-20 years of my life, I identified myself as the kid with heart problems. That’s how I knew I stood out from most other people, even after becoming a Christian.
We all have a desire to be unique, to stick out from other people. We want to be remembered for the crazy things we have done or gone through. From my experience, telling people that I have a metal heart valve usually gets their attention, and rightfully so. Most people don’t have such abnormalities. Even to this day, I still use it to set myself apart when I meet new people. It’s something interesting about me. We all have that something that sets us apart, whether it’s a talent we possess, a really cool object that we own, such as a car or antique from days past, or a medical condition that affects us in some way, visible or not.
The heart plays a significant role in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are told to love God with all of our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our heart for everything we do flows from it. At face value, these verses seem rather straightforward in how we understand the heart. However, Jesus throws us a curveball in Mark 12:30, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, where He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, but He adds mind to the mix. I have heard various ideas as to why this is, ranging from Jesus having an off day to Mark not remembering the occasion very well. Both are quite farfetched in my opinion. I can’t imagine Jesus having an off day. I mean, He’s God, is He not? The likelihood of Mark messing this up in writing is also highly un-likely. Deuteronomy 6:5 is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament, contained in what is called the Shema. Everyone knew this passage because it was so central to the Hebrew way of life. I think the answer to this conundrum is in the language used. In the Greek, heart and mind were two different ideas that had their own words, which is why Jesus states them as such. In Biblical Hebrew, the word for heart contained all that is entailed in mind as well. When Israelites in the Old Testament considered the heart, the mind was automatically included in that.
When we are called to love God with all of our heart in Deuteronomy, we are also called to love Him with our mind. The brain and heart work together in this verse as well as in our day to day experience. When most people think of their heart, they consider their emotions, and understandably so. However, if we don’t hold our emotions accountable to our minds and thoughts, we can be led astray. Some emotions make sense for us to feel. Anger, for example, is normal. However, if we allow anger to control us, then we begin to live apart from the way that God wants. Emotions are good, but we must put them under control of a mind ruled by God. The heart can be deceitful, as Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, so we must be careful.
One thing I always try to get people to understand, be it students, friends, or family, is that God is always concerned about the heart. What is the motive behind what was done? What emotions are driving our actions? If we live a life of service for Jesus, then we are being God’s people, but the minute we depart from that and start living for our own good and peace, then we are being ruled by our deceitful heart. This is what happened to Lucifer and what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden. They decided to live for themselves and, well, you know the story. In this sense, I suppose, we all have a heart problem. We all struggle to serve God with our heart and mind because we have this thing in our lives called sin. Sin is the most powerful force on this planet. I mean, it took God himself dying in order to destroy the power of sin and death.
The only real cure for the deceitful heart is to bring it captive under Christ. When we allow our actions to be guided by Christ and His will, we will never go wrong. It will be uncomfortable, sure, but being God’s people should be worth a little discomfort, at least in my mind. I’m just reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
We have eternity to be happy and joyful and comfortable in the presence of the God of the universe. Let’s strive to live for others in our short time here on Earth.