The modern advice to “guard your heart” is often used outside of the original Biblical context, even in the area of romance. What does it really mean? ♦
I remember watching a TV episode of “The Bachelorette” (my wife makes me watch it) in which one of the male suitors kept making a honest but awkward reference to the Bible verse to “guard your heart.” He would repeat this to the young woman of his desire with no further explanation. He never cited the full Proverbs 4:23 verse: “Above all else, guard your heart; for from it flow the springs of life” although I don’t believe his chances of winning her over would have been improved. She dismissed his sincere but strange advances and ultimately sent him home.
What does this popular verse actually mean? Is it in reference to relationships? Is it good dating advice?
Actually, one could, and many do, apply the Proverbial “guard your heart” verse to just about anything related to the heart – dreams, desires, relationships, devotion – anything that hits to the essence and core of one’s soul. But as with many Scriptural references, the key to understanding the Bible is in using scripture in context to highlight scripture.
That said, the “guard your heart” verse has absolutely nothing to do with romance.
It’s a God Thing
As described in earlier writings here about the first 3 chapters of Proverbs, the author Solomon’s focus is on passing pearls of wisdom to his son. Wisdom that is Godly wisdom. Wisdom that begins with the fear (awe and reverence) of God. Wisdom that leads to true Knowledge of God and then even the favor of God.
Pretty good payback simply for listening to fatherly advice.
Yes, this sounds good but seems a bit esoteric and high-minded. And if it can’t really apply to dating and romance and dreams and desires and relationships, then what practical good is it?
How can one actually apply all of this Wisdom, Truth, God stuff in real life?
Start with God Knowledge
As stated, the beginning of knowledge starts with God. Specifically, the “fear” of God. That is, one has to acknowledge the existence of God and then the authority of God in humble respect, awe, and reverence. Anything less is but foolishness in this world, regardless what peers or status or income say. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
So out of this fear comes Knowledge. Knowledge of what? Try Truth. Jesus said to Pilate that “For this I was born, for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37)
Jesus also said “He who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14:9).
Yes, Jesus and God are intimately tied to Truth and Knowledge in this confusing world. Without this we are lost and bewildered wanderers searching for meaning without understanding. So seeking, finding, and then knowing God/Jesus is the first step.
Then Trust Walk with God
We’re told in Proverbs to “Take heed to the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.” (Proverbs 4:26) as well as “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
There’s something to walking a path, a straight path even – “do not swerve to the right or to the left.” (Proverbs 4:27) We’re also told to “abide” in Him; that is, to be connected and stay connected. We’re to actually now cling to Him, connected like a branch to the main vine, the “True Vine.” In John 15, Jesus teaches us that He is the vine: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
So walk a straight path, a path that is actually presented or laid out before us via our trusting and acknowledging and abiding in Jesus. This Trust Walk with God/Jesus is the second step.
Then Bear Good Fruit
And finally, the output of one who knows God and walks with God is good fruit: So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10) Even multiplied good fruit:
‘But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’ (Matthew 13:23)
The product or works of a Christian walking with God is a reflection of that relationship with God. A person is not saved by their works; they are saved by their faith in Christ. That faith cultivated in an abiding relationship with the living God manifests itself in the yield of good fruit. If no fruit, then check the relationship.
So Guard This
Therefore it is this that one should guard:
- Knowing God’s Truth and Wisdom
- Walking with God on a Path led by God
- Producing Fruit for God, through God
And with this purposeful living with God will “flow the springs of life,” and therefore one’s dreams, desires, relationships, and devotions will be appropriately aligned with the will of God. No one can go wrong with that.
Are you guarding your relationship with God?
“Above all else, guard your heart; for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23
Categories: Abundant Living, Calling, Devotion, Faith, Marriage, Purpose
Excellent exegetical reflection on essential truths of Scripture.
How would you advise that awkward suitor if you met him in an elevator?