Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Human Heart?

If you watch the show American Pickers or Pawn Stars, you will see people buying and selling unique, historic, and valuable items. Sometimes they can make a deal, sometimes not. Usually, when they can't it's because the seller "feels" it's worth more than it really is. It doesn't usually matter what kind of experts are brought in, or what kind of facts they present them with. If they "feel" it is worth so much, then that is the reality they insist upon, despite the truth.

However, we see this dynamic on more than just cable reality shows; people are prone to treat their emotions as truth in every aspect of their lives. Emotions are not necessarily truth though, for the simple fact that we are just as prone to react emotionally to inaccurate information as fact. Plus, past traumas can cause us to react in exaggerated ways.

It was this very concept that inspired me to do a sermon on the subject. Yet, my initial research came up with some rather surprising findings. The first thing I did was to do a keyword search of the word emotion, and surprisingly there was nothing. The word emotion never appears once in the New International Version, King James Version, or the New American Standard Bible, the three most influential English translations ever. So I tried the words feel, and feelings. While there were a few instances there, none of them really defined or explained what our relationship to our emotions should be generally speaking. So I figured I could use the word heart, I knew there was hundreds of references to that word, which I thought should offer some insight into feelings. Instead of assume though, I looked up the Biblical words for heart to make sure this was an accurate way to address emotions from a scriptural stand point, and this is what I found.

In the Bible, the word heart usually designates the whole personality, instead of emotions. Scripturally speaking the heart is the center of the human person, in which the physical and spiritual life is concentrated.

Definitely not what I was expecting to find, yet in a way it was exactly the answer I was seeking. If we recognize the heart as the core of self, yet wrongfully believe that manifests through emotion alone, one will naturally assume their feelings are truth. Plus it also explains why the Bible offers no blanket insights into emotions, but addresses each one individually. If they were inherently lies or truth, it would surely say so. Yet, neither of these common extremist views hold any water Biblically speaking.

In that moment, I realized my intended message was far too big a subject to be able to tackle in a week, and do it justice. However, my research did shed light on a misperception I believe needs to be addressed. So my plan is to look up every single reference to the word heart in the Bible to see what I can glean from it. A path I plan on taking my readers on by sharing the highlights.

The natural place to start is the very first mention of the human heart in scripture. Which can be found in Genesis 6:5-8, but I suggest you also read Genesis 8:20-21 as well. Since chapter 8 concludes the narrative that began in chapter 6.

What these references reveal:
  • The heart is tied to thought. We do not often associate the heart with thought, however scripture is rather consistent in equating the heart with thought and reflection. Even Jesus made this correlation multiple times.
  • The human heart can incline towards evil. Yet another Old Testament concept confirmed by Jesus. Chapter 8 also adds that this inclination begins in childhood. But remember, this tendency is not necessarily an emotional one.
  • The human heart is a source of great concern for God. Which reminds me of the words of John Eldredge “I find it hard to believe a case must be made that the heart is. . . well, at the heart of it all. Of life. Of each person. Of God. And of Christianity.”

Indeed, the heart is a very important subject, a subject mentioned in the Bible more often than service, obedience, and even worship; probably because all these other subjects are dependent upon the state of our hearts. Hence, the heart being of great concern to God. All the more reason to seek better understanding of it, instead of rely on the casual abstract notion we all possess.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
-Matthew 15:19-20

a person examining their heart under an x-ray
click to enlarge

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