In our last lesson about how to have the good life now, we looked at the impact of the tongue. What we say has the power to bring life and healing or discouragement and hurt to a person’s soul. We made the important point that if we have a problem controlling our tongue, speaking slander and malice against others, then we have a heart problem. Solomon spends a significant amount of time teaching his son about the heart. When we speak about the heart, we are talking about our inner self, our conscience, our motives, our thought processes, and our desires.
The Importance of a Pure Heart
1. God knows our actions. Solomon tells his son that there is not one activity that is hidden from the sight of God. “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). There is no place that we can go and suppose that God does not know. We cannot be hidden in our house and think that God does not see. We cannot drive or fly away from God’s awareness of our actions. God sees every sin committed, even though others do not. God sees every act of righteousness, even though others do not. “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths” (5:21). The first clause shows that God sees everything. Our ways are in “full view.” Nothing is obscured from God’s sight. Knowledge of this should encourage us to do good when no one is looking and avoid sin.
2. God knows our hearts. Not only does God know our actions, but he also knows what is in our hearts. “If Sheol and Abaddon lie open in front of the Lord how much more the human heart!” (15:11). If God can see even into the depths of the earth, then God can surely see into the hearts of humanity. Since God knows the hearts, why would we think that God will find us acceptable by only performing external, religious acts? If we refuse to be righteous and holy in character and in heart, why would we think that God would care that we “go to church?” Is God impressed by us because we sit in pews while we allow our hearts to continue to be full of wickedness? We are not deceiving God. We are not going to avoid hell because we spent one hour in a church building every week. God knows what is in our hearts and we will be judged by what is in our hearts.
3. God examines our hearts. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart” (17:3). The word translated “tests” literally means “investigates, examines.” Just as fire purifies silver and gold, the fires of life will purify our hearts. Trials and difficulties are an investigation of our faith. The heart becomes revealed in times of difficulty. Our faith can appear to be strong, but trials will test that strength. If we throw away the grace of God and give up on righteousness, then we have shown to have weak faith. Jesus taught this to Peter when Peter went to walk on the water. Peter’s faith looked strong to ask to walk on the Sea of Galilee to Jesus. But when trouble appeared as the wind kicked up, Peter began to drown. Jesus told Peter that he had little faith (Matthew 14:31). A pure heart is important because without a pure heart we will fall when adverse times arise.
4. God weighs our hearts. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (21:2). Also, Solomon said, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives” (16:2). These proverbs picture our hearts being put on the scales and evaluated for purity. During the days when these proverbs were written, the value of a metal like gold and silver was determined by placing it on the scale. The weight of pure gold is known and if the piece of gold place on the scale did not measure up, then it was known that there was a flaw and was not 100 percent pure. I believe this is the idea behind these proverbs. God places our hearts on the scales to be weighed to see if our hearts are pure or impure. What a picture of the day of judgment! Each person before the throne of God and our hearts, our motives, our thoughts, and our intents will be placed upon the scales and investigated for purity. What will be God’s answer concerning the purity in your heart?
God’s Standard Versus Man’s Standard
When we consider the question about how our hearts would weigh on the scale, we cannot use our own human standards to answer the question. God is the one who sets the standard, not us. “There are those who are pure in their own eyes yet are not cleansed of their filthiness” (30:12). It does not matter if we think we are doing a good job being righteous and moral. All that matters is if we are righteous and moral according to God’s standards. Just because we feel good about ourselves does not mean that we are cleansed of our filthiness. I think there are three reasons as to why we cannot rely upon our own feelings about our righteousness.
1. We use poor standards. Humans define righteousness differently than God. We think we are doing good because we did not lie or curse. But God demands that we do not speak against another person. We think we do good because we are not doing mean, hateful things to our neighbor. God demands that we love our neighbor as ourselves. We think that it is good that we go to church. God demands that we love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
2. We deceive ourselves about our progress.Even if we are using God’s standards we often overestimate how good we are doing. I think everyone in this room would declare that they will not give up on God. But when suffering comes we do give up on God. The disciples are a great example of this. All of them on the night before Jesus’ death publicly confessed that they would never deny or forsake the Lord. That very night each of them forsook Jesus and fled. We often we declare that our faith is strong, but the time of trial reveals our weakness. So we cannot think we truly know where our faith is at because we typically deceive ourselves about our progress. We must rely upon the perfect law of liberty.
3. We lead ourselves astray from God’s path. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (28:26). When we rely upon our own feelings and our own understanding, we go in the wrong direction. The answers of life are not found within ourselves. Justification from God is not found by doing what we think is best. We make the wrong decisions and that is why we need a Savior to remove our sins. We need to follow the standard of God.
So what can we do to purify our hearts so that we can be found righteous when God weighs our hearts?
How To Have Proper Hearts
1. Examine our own hearts. “As the water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person” (27:19). God is going to examine our hearts. It would be a good idea to examine our own hearts first. When I worked as an accountant, there was a time when the IRS was going to do an audit to make sure that the company was keeping to all the accounting rules and laws. Do you think we just waited until the IRS arrived to see how we were doing? I was immediately assigned the task to perform an internal audit on the company to see if I could find any problems that needed to be corrected before the IRS came. If you receive a letter in the mail that your tax return is being audited by the IRS, will you not look back over your tax forms and records to make sure you did everything right to the best of your ability? Of course all of us would do this. We need to do the same with our hearts, knowing that our hearts will be evaluated, investigated, and examined for any flaws. We need to catch the flaws while we have opportunity to fix the problem.
2. Guard our hearts. “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (4:23). Since we will have our judged, we need to guard our hearts above all else. How can we allow filth to enter into our hearts knowing that we will pay the consequences from such a decision? We have to guard our eyes to protect our hearts. We have to guard our thoughts from inappropriate desires and lusts. Solomon is very serious to his son in this proverb. Guarding the heart is so important. If there is nothing else that you do in this life, you must guard your heart. Do not watch TV programs that have inappropriate material in them. Do not see movies that have immoral behavior. Do not place yourself in situations where you will be likely to sin.
3. Teach our hearts. “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way” (23:19). We have to tell our heart which way to go. Notice that Solomon does not say that to be wise you should listen to your heart. No, the heart needs to be taught and trained. You and I are to lead our hearts. We are not to be led by our hearts. Train the heart to desire righteousness. This means we must have a greater dedication to reading our Bibles regularly. Pick up a reading sheet in the back so you can read your Bible daily. We must have a greater dedication to studying the scriptures. Why do we have so few people wanting to study the Bible? Knowing that our hearts will be examined, we need to know what the test will be on so our hearts are prepared. We cannot do enough to know the word of God. We need to know the Bible inside and out because we will be judged by its standards.
God knows our actions, knows our hearts, and will weigh our hearts. We cannot be deceived into thinking just our actions are enough or just pure hearts are enough. God examines both our actions and our hearts.
We will be judged by God’s standards, not our own standards. Just because we think we are doing well does not mean we will be found righteous. The word of God is the standard that we must evaluate ourselves by.
Therefore, let us take an active role in the work of our heart. We need to examine our hearts, guard our hearts, and teach our hearts in the way of righteousness. Judgment day will one day come and we will be accountable for our hearts. We need to be prepared and ready for that day.