When counseling someone in a new dating relationship, we might advise, “Guard your heart.” Don’t get too close or emotionally attached to a significant other in case the relationship ends in rejection and hurt. “Protect yourself from undue pain” seems to be the warning.
Proverbs 4:23 also tells us to “guard” our heart, but it carries an entirely different meaning. Chapter 4 is a condensed version of the instructions found throughout the Proverbs. It encapsulates the book’s teaching on righteous living.
This lesson begins by a father addressing his son and admonishing him to “pay attention” and listen closely (v. 20). The advice is given by an older, more experienced person to a younger person. While many things compete for our attention, an honorable life begins with the discipline to train your ear to listen for truth. Whatever we tune our ears to, our eyes and heart will follow (vv. 21–22). The son is being taught to consume God’s truth in every way possible as it is the only thing that gives life and health to the entire being.
This comes to a climax in verse 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Our heart is the core of our being—mind, emotion, and will. We demonstrate our love for God not by protecting our hearts from intimacy but by guarding our hearts from evil.
Our heart is the wellspring of life. From the heart flow our words (v. 24), focus (v. 25), action, and decision (v. 26). What we allow into our heart will work its way out in our communication, our relationships, our priorities, our values, and our choices. This section of Scripture summarizes how we grow and mature. As we receive instruction and put it into practice, we take wise steps on firm paths.
What does it mean to guard our heart? Why is it so important? How does the content of your heart become evident in your speech, priorities, and decisions?
Pray with Us: How can we love You, Lord, with all our hearts if our hearts are divided? Teach us to guard our hearts in all situations, so that from them will flow only sincere love for You and our neighbor.