"We usually don't mind spending a considerable amount of time standing in front of the mirror to check out our appearance. But nobody ever stares at their reflection in the mirror and thinks, 'I hope my heart is in great condition'. Truth is, if your heart were to stop beating, no one would care about your appearance." (paraphrased).
My Uncle often points out something along that line.
I've put this post off for some time but the more I think about it, the more I realize how important the state of my heart is.
See, my Uncle's illustration can be applied in a different sense as well.
A lot of the time, we invest our efforts in caring about what we look like in front of others. No, not only what we look like physically, but what people perceive when they are around us. Do they see a kind person? Do they see a polite guy? Do they see someone who always volunteers to help others? Do they see a woman who gives to the poor?
All that stuff sounds nice, doesn't it? And really, there's nothing wrong with it. That's what we're supposed to be. After all, the Bible says:
"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" Colossians 3:12 (NASB).
"Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart." Proverbs 3:3.
Where am I going with this?
Here's the thing, the "doing" is great. But sometimes, we get so carried away with the 'doing', we forget that the state of our heart while 'doing' matters a lot more than the actual 'doing' itself.
Now I'm sure I've lost you.
See, it doesn't matter if I volunteer for hours at a homeless persons' shelter. It doesn't matter if I'm a listening ear to a friend or I decide to bake big Sis a cake. What matters most is my attitude and my motives. It's about the heart, friend.
What does your heart look like?
This gets to me, convicts me and it puts me in check.
As Christians, we worry so much about the 'doing' that we forget all about our hearts all together. But lately, I've been reminded over and over, that more than anything you could ever do, God cares most about the heart that is doing it. He tells Samuel this:
"...People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" 1 Samuel 16:7b (NLT).
David understood this! My, oh my, he understood this so much that he prayed these words:
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" Psalm 51:10 (KJV).
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" Psalm 19:14 (NLT).
"Search me, O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:24 (ESV).
Just like David prayed, if God did a search on your heart this very moment, what would He find? Bitterness? Distrust? Envy? Anger? Pride? Unforgiveness (which auto-correct tells me is not a word)? Self-righteousness? Jealousy? The list could go on and on.
The consequences of having such things in our hearts are not to be taken lightly. I believe that's why Solomon advices in Proverbs 4:23 that "above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life" (NLT). Wow. Think about that for a second. I don't think that verse only applies to our life here on earth. The state of one's heart could determine where they end up in eternity. Here's why I say so:
"Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matthew 7: 22-23 (NIV).
Am I the only person that verse freaks out? Well, excuse my honesty. You see, the people in that verse 'did' what we today would consider outstanding. Right? But their 'doing' clearly wasn't enough. I ask myself what state their heart was in when they performed miracles. Did they hold a grudge they never let go of? Or did they only serve the Lord with their deed and not their heart? Were their motives all wrong? Were they seeking their own popularity?
Let's take one of the criminals who was crucified at Calvary along with Jesus. I can imagine the guy had spent his whole life committing one crime after the other. According to him, he deserved to be crucified. To anyone's standard, this man had 'done' nothing deserving of heaven. Yet as he hung on a cross facing death, he revealed to Jesus that his heart was in the right place. And that determined where he would spend eternity (Luke 23:39-43).
Don't get me wrong, your good acts count! They are important. But Paul sums it up like this:
"If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing" (Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
With all this in mind, I don't just want to 'do' under the pretext of being busy for God. I want to be conscious and pay attention to the things I'm letting into my heart at the same time. I want to check my motives constantly. I'll probably pray the same prayers as David a couple of times until it becomes an everyday thing. Because if the state of a person's heart could determine the course of the person's life, well then, we all better keep our hearts in check!