“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Think of the things that women generally work hard to keep: the house clean, the laundry done, the kids in order. Women also work hard to keep their figure, their job, their budget, their husband…you get the idea. We all work hard at keeping many things.
This proverb tells us be “keeping” our hearts because our hearts are where the action is. All we say and do (“the issues of life”) comes right out of our hearts. And if our hearts are not doing well, our lives won’t be doing well either.
The trouble is that our hearts are a whole lot more difficult to monitor than our weight or our job performance or our love life. Our hearts can deceive us (Jer. 17:9), and James warns us (1:26) not to deceive ourselves. This requires wisdom.
So how do we keep our hearts? Clearly we need God’s help, and obviously He has provided a way for us to be vigilant without becoming self-absorbed. Keeping our hearts means we are paying attention. It means we are persistently attentive. We don’t cut ourselves slack, make excuses, pass the buck, or take a day off from godliness. Here are a few ways we can exercise oversight of our own hearts.
1. We pay attention to Scripture. For example, Romans 12:1-2 tells us not to be conformed to the world. So we think about what that means; we don’t just brush it off and assume we are fine.
2. We pay attention to our obedience. Are we doing what we are learning? If we learn it today, we must do it today. Otherwise we will put it off, and by putting it off, we soon forget what we learned in the first place.
3. We watch over our habits and make sure they are wholesome, the kind that promotes holiness. Thomas Watson said, “Take heed to that which nourishes sin.” What kinds of things are feeding sin in your heart? Daydreaming? Covetous thoughts? Laziness? Unwise entertainments? Expel them! Do some spring cleaning in your heart.
4. Anytime we expel something ugly from our hearts, we must replace it with something lovely. When you confess bitterness toward someone, begin to pray that God will bless him. When you confess envy or jealousy, replace it with thanksgiving.
Not only does this kind of diligence help us spiritually, but it enables us to teach our children how to do the same thing. Rachel often asks her children, “Who is your boss?” and the correct response is, “You, Mama.” The next question is, “Who’s the boss of your heart?” And the reply is, “I am!”