OceanSide church of Christ
|Previous||Return to Articles||Next|
FUNCTIONS OF THE HEART
Victor M. Eskew
The Bible has much to say about the heart of man. No, we are not referring to the physical heart that pumps blood though one’s body. We are talking about the spiritual heart. This heart is the mind of man. A well-known verse about the heart is found in Proverbs 4:23. The wise Preacher exhorts his readers, saying: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The heart is the control center for every human being. Everything that is thought, said, and done originates first in the heart.
The heart of man has several functions. We want to examine these in this article. First, the heart enables us to think. Man has the ability to allow things to come into his mind and formulate ideas about those things. His mind gives him the ability to come to an understanding of the things that enter into his mind. This capacity to think gives him great power and ability. He can use the things about which he thinks to better his life, to protect himself and others, and to subdue portions of the world unto himself. It was the writer of Proverbs who said: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Prov. 23:7).
A second function of the heart is reasoning. Man is able to gather all kinds of evidence together and come to conclusions about the evidence. He can reason as to the validity of the evidence. He can reason about the strength of the evidence. He can reason as to the usefulness of the evidence. God knew He created man with a mind that could reason. In Isaiah 1:18, He exhorted Israel with these words: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…” When Paul stood before Felix, he used this function of the heart upon the ruler. “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25). When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he understood that they could reason. Therefore, he admonished them with these words: “Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thess. 5:20-22).
A third function of our heart is the ability to will. In other words, each person has the power to choose his own actions. There are numerous passages in the Bible wherein individuals were exhorted to choose what they would do. Joshua said to Israel: “…choose you this day whom he will serve…” (Josh. 24:15). On Mount Carmel, Elijah addressed the people of Israel, saying: “Who long halt ye between two opinions: if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him…” (I Kings 18:21). Our will gives us freedom. No one can force us to do anything. We choose what we want to believe. We choose the behaviors in which we will engage. We choose the lifestyle that we desire to live. Human beings are not robots that serve the will of another. If one person serves another person, it is because he chooses to do so.
A fourth function of the heart involves our motives. Our motives are what cause us to act in a certain way. In Nehemiah 6:2, Sanballat and Geshem sent word to Nehemiah. They wanted him to meet with them on the plain of Ono. The last words of this verse contain these words: “But they thought to do me mischief.” These men did not want to meet with this man of God to have just an important conversation. Their motive was evil. They wanted to bring some type of distress or harm to Nehemiah. Their motive originated in their heart. We all have motives for the things we do. The crazy thing about motives is that we can be driven by two or three at the same time. One motive, however, usually takes precedence over the others.
A fifth function of the heart is purposing. In II Corinthians 9:7, Paul instructed the Corinthians about their giving. He wrote: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give...” Before we do something, we can have the end in mind. This is a purpose. Paul was telling the Corinthians to purpose, determine beforehand, what they would give. Giving was not to be a knee-jerk reaction. The Corinthians were to reflect upon their giving. Having done so, they were determine the amount they would contribute to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Being able to purpose is extremely important. We can set goals. We can make plans. These things keep us going when the going gets tough.
A sixth function of the heart involves the emotions of man. Sometimes we act as if we have no control over our emotions. We can go from calm to angry in milliseconds. We have feelings of joy upon hearing the first word of a song. One simple memory can cause tears to pour down our cheeks. It seems we have no control over our emotions. This, however, is not the case. All emotions begin in the mind of man. It is possible to be angry and not sin (Eph. 4:26). It is possible to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). It is possible to count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (Jms. 1:2). It was possible for Jesus to endure the pains of the crucifixion with joy (Heb. 12:2). To tame our emotions is difficult. We must be extremely aware of our feelings. When we are, we can have control over them.
A seventh function of our mind is memory. The things that enter into our minds can be recalled by the mind. We can travel and know the way back home without a GPS. We can lose a loved one, yet be able to experience joy as we think about the good times we shared with him while he was living. We can read about events that happened many years ago, and recall them as if we were there. Jesus took advantage of our memory when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, this is my body, which is given for you: this do ye in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). Every Sunday, Christians use this function of their mind to recall the love of God manifested on the cross of Calvary that procured their salvation.
Man is a very unique creature. He has a heart like no other creature upon the Earth. His heart allows him to think, to reason, to will, to have motives, to purpose, to express a wide range of emotions, and to remember. What a blessing we have because we have a heart. However, we must also pay attention to the warnings found in the Bible about man’s heart. One of them is found in Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” It is for this reason we must guard it with all our might. Let us never be fooled by our heart. One thing is certain, we cannot fool God. He knows all hearts. “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).