“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” – Proverbs 4:23 NLT
All this talk of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding could easily leave the impression that Solomon is obsessed with intelligence. It sounds like he is simply trying to encourage his son to get a good education, learn all that he can learn, and apply all that knowledge to living a good life. But Solomon is wise enough to know that there is more to this picture than mere intelligence or IQ. He is talking about a way of life that is based on much more than just book learning. All throughout the Proverbs Solomon contrasts two ways of life, to lifestyles. One is marked by wickedness and foolishness. The other is marked by wisdom and righteousness. But the difference isn’t just about one person knowing more than the other. It is the fact that one knows God better than the other. At the end of the day, this is a heart issue. When Solomon pleads his son, and all young people, to “get wisdom” and “don’t turn your back on wisdom,” he is really telling them to pursue God, because He is the source of all wisdom.
In this Proverb, Solomon refers to “the way” multiple times. He describes life as a journey and we have choices regarding which path we will take as we live our lives. He says, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving” (Proverbs 4:14-15 NLT). He compares the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. One ends in light, the other in darkness. But then Solomon provides us with the key. He says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 14:23 NLT). It is our heart that will determine whether we go the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked. It is our heart that will determine whether we seek God’s way or the world’s. So we need wise hearts, not brave hearts. We need heart knowledge, not head knowledge. God wants to renew our hearts and change the way we think, act, speak, and live. Without heart change, all efforts to live wisely will be short-lived and end up in nothing more than behavior modification. When Solomon says, “Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech” (Proverbs 4:24 NLT), he knows he is asking the impossible unless our hearts are changed by God. We will gravitate toward perverse talk and corrupt speech without wise hearts. And only God can give us wise hearts. Only God gives us the ability to make wise choices. Solomon closes his Proverb with these words: “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT). Without a wise heart, that is impossible. God gives us the capacity to know right from wrong, good from evil. He equips us with not only the knowledge to make good choices, but the ability to do so. He changes our hearts. Head knowledge is not enough. Heart knowledge is what we need. Wise hearts and brave souls – men and women living life according to God’s terms and in the power of God’s Spirit.
Father, give us wise hearts. Change us from the inside out. Don’t let us be satisfied with head knowledge. I don’t want to just know about You, I want to really know You so that I might live in a way that pleases You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men