The oft-given advice to “Follow your heart” may rank among the worst popular concepts in history. It encourages selfishness, eliminates standards, and eschews guidance. It treats desire as a virtue and personal experience as truth. While Postmodernism has created an entire culture around this, its existence predates the modern era by millennia. In fact, Eve essentially partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because she followed her heart. The temptation presented by Satan appealed to her senses while blocking good sense, and that problem remains and indeed is inherent in the follow your heart philosophy. Solomon acknowledged this problem in the book of Proverbs and offered an important corrective. “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:20–23). The human heart as the seat of interest, emotion, and decision making should never become our guide for life. To the contrary, it is what requires the greatest guidance.
Many people gullibly open up their heart to the influence of sin and Satan with a naïveté of epic proportions. They turn over the reins of their lives to one who wishes their destruction. This reality seems to escape the masses who jump into the wash of immorality headfirst, often drowning in the consequences as a result. One drink of alcohol as an experiment leads to binge drinking with friends (Prov. 20:1). Treating sexuality as common recreation rather than sacred interaction has consequences of the heart far worse than an STD or an unplanned pregnancy regardless of a person’s age (Heb. 13:4). Indeed, practically all sin presents itself as pleasurable and innocent in the moment only to deliver the uncomfortable realities once the heart has been corrupted. Even practical experience teaches this lesson. However, the world treats these problems in terms of degree, acting surprised at the consequences of deceit, all while dangling the lie as harmless before the uninitiated (Eph. 4:25, 29). Society attempts to partake of the poison and then manage the dosage. In fact, a cursory examination of societal problems and proposed solutions reveals just how contradictory they often are and why Solomon had it right.
To “keep your heart with all diligence” is to guard your heart with the vigilance of a soldier expecting an enemy attack at any moment. The heart determines the direction a person takes in life, whether for good or for bad. Therefore, what enters the heart determines what a person values, what a person loves, and what a person rejects (Matt. 6:19-21). Almost a thousand years after Solomon penned these proverbs, Jesus expanded on the same theme, saying, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20–23). Therefore, the best life, a life lived pleasing to God, depends upon guarding the heart—not only by keeping the wrong things out but also by welcoming the right things in. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, no on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).