By Joe Slater

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).

Have you heard about the broken clock hanging on a wall of a church building? A sign below it said, “Don’t blame my hands; the trouble lies on the inside.”

The same is true for you and me. Our feet take us places we shouldn’t go. Our hands do things we ought not do. Our mouths utter wicked words. Why? Is something wrong with our feet, hands, and mouths? No, the problem lies deeper.

Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Hear the Master again: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication’s, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). Are these actions sinful on their own merits? Indeed! Nobody even remotely familiar with the Bible would argue otherwise. Yet the outward act does not constitute the whole problem.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus repeatedly showed that God is concerned not only with the outward behavior (good or bad), but with the condition of the heart which motivates it. That is true of murder (Matthew 5:21-26), adultery (5:27-32), honesty (5:33-37), and acts of worship and service such as charitable giving, prayer, and fasting (6:1-18). God disapproves of sinful acts, but He also disapproves of the corrupt hearts that produce them. He wants us to obey Him, but also to have pure motives.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Such is the Lord’s estimation of the human heart. How, then, can we guard our hearts so that our actions are acceptable to God? The apostle Paul taught that we must be careful with our thinking. The world is awash in vulgar, trashy, ugly, ungodly material with which we might occupy our minds. We might meditate about things immoral, things that make us angry, wrongs we have suffered, and past failures. By contrast, Paul says, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

There is an old computer saying: G-I-G-O – it stands for “garbage in, garbage out.” Whatever you feed into your mind and allow to stay there will come back out in words and deeds. Remember, it’s a matter of the heart.

– Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation’s website.