“It’s the heart, stupid,” would often be the answer to the questions that were being lobbed at us 20-somethings in that Sunday School class each week. Why does anyone act, think, believe or behave the way they do? It’s the heart, stupid. While the saying is quite simple, its implications are profound. As we search and study the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament teachings of Jesus, we see much attention given to the heart. Put in a proper interpretation, we find that when Scripture speaks to the heart of man, it is not referring simply to the internal organ that pumps blood, but more to the very core of who man is. It is where intellect and spirituality collide and is very closely tied to what we typically term the “conscience”. When we begin to realize that the heart is so much more than a physical organ, that it is the driving factor behind emotion, desire and conscience we can then begin to answer the question: Why?
Why would one young person gun down another young person for a sandwich and a few dollars (a true story from our local news recently)? Why would a wife and mother leave her husband and family for another man after 30 years of marriage (yes, also a true story)? Perhaps on a more personal level, why do I struggle with [insert “pet” sin/addiction here]? Why am I so angry? Why am I so anxious?
I have long found the study of why people behave, think and act they way they do to be extremely interesting. I have read countless books and articles on why people are predisposed to certain addictions or lifestyles. I have looked at personality profiles and birth order books in a quest to answer the question, why? In all of that, I find that the clearest answer, the most Biblical answer is simply, “It’s the heart, stupid.”
Let’s look briefly at what the Scriptures say about the heart. The prophet Jeremiah speaking to the sin of Judah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus, speaking on what defiles a person said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” So, if we realize it is the heart that drives all that we do and according to the Scriptures “the heart is deceitful . . . desperately sick”, then the question becomes, how is this remedied?
The simple answer is, man needs a heart transplant or, to use a more theological term, man needs a regenerated heart. The apostle Paul wrote "if m you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and n believe in your heart o that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” The change from lost to found, from sinner to saint, from wicked and deceitful to pure and holy, is in the heart and is purely a work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is not about doing anything, it is a about a supernatural change to the heart (soul) of man that should result in righteous living.
To answer our original question, why does one think, act, behave, etc. in the way they do? It all comes back to what is going on in the heart. Why does the wife leave her husband after 30 years? Why do we struggle with sin? It’s a heart issue. It has nothing to do with trying harder or doing more, but has everything to do with having a heart that has been regenerated and is continually being renewed by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. To paraphrase a popular Christian writer, we must stop trying harder and start falling madly in love with Jesus Christ.
Joshua West, MA
m Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8; [1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11]
n See Acts 16:31
o [1 Pet. 1:21]; See Acts 2:24
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Rom 10:9–10.