My parents divorced when I was six years old. My brother had taken me to Sonic to get me out of the house when my dad drove away, but on the way home we passed each other on the road, and that image is forever burned into my mind. My heart was broken for the first time. Most of us have experienced heartbreak. We learn to “guard my heart” because it is delicate and fragile. And the ache we endure when it breaks can be devastating.
Today’s verse from Proverbs is not a lesson on self-protection. It’s not a how-to manual on protecting yourself from broken-heartedness, and it’s not a fool-proof method for guarding against vulnerability. Rather, Proverbs 4:23 and the entire passage, is emphasizing the importance of guarding our hearts from the sin and evil that wants to take up residence within us.
In English the “heart” is where we experience emotion and through which we express things like love and commitment. In Hebrew “heart” refers to our mind, will, intentions, understanding, and emotions. The “heart” thus encompasses all of our inner selves, not just our emotions. That’s why we must guard our hearts. “Everything you do flows from it,” says Solomon in verse 23. In Matthew 15:18, Jesus pointed to the dangerous “spill over” of what’s in our heart. He said it was “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.”
Since the Fall, our hearts have been prone to sin; we naturally veer toward folly and wickedness, allowing sin to enter our lives and grow. Since we know that our tendency is to allow sin, we must actively guard our hearts, filling them instead with righteousness and holiness.
>> What ways can we guard our hearts? Consider the things you allow to enter and set up residence in your life. Ask God to reveal anything you have let into the gates of your life that should be removed. In addition, ask Him to protect your heart.
Some of us tend toward legalism, while others fall into worldliness. Remind us that You have called us neither to regulations nor total liberty, but to holiness. Guard our hearts from evil and give us a craving for righteousness.