“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always. Surely there is a future and your hope will not be cut off.” — Proverbs 23:17-18
Thirty years ago, Dana and I rebranded our singles ministry in the city of Houston with the logo, “SINGLEHEARTED: Marked by Sincerity and Unity of Purpose.” Our mission was to equip single adults to take their eyes off of themselves and focus their attention on a first love relationship with Jesus. They responded to this with a zeal and a devotion that I have seldom seen matched. Never underestimate the power of a group of people who sincerely believe that life is not about them, but it is all about Him.
Proverbs is filled with warnings about guarding and protecting one’s heart from selfish desires, strange women, and unrepentant sinners. The heart needs to be harnessed for the best, or it will wander into the worst. The heart of the matter has always been the matter of the heart.
“Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, ‘Eat and drink.’ But his heart is not with you.” — Proverbs 23:6-7
This passage gives us a clue to inner the recesses of the heart. It is the repository of the true self. A person’s words cannot be trusted, if their heart is twisted.
“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is to be desired by the Lord more than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.” — Proverbs 21:2-4
Greek education dealt with the development of the mind, but Hebrew education focused on the heart. The collection of information by the student did not necessarily lead to wisdom. Elevation of the mind was nowhere near as important to the Hebrews as installation of wisdom. Hebrew teachers focused on the creation of character in the life of their student. Education of the mind without the protection of the heart would lead the Greeks to focus on themselves as the center of attention. Hebrew teaching led a student to look to God for direction, protection and direction.
“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
Chasing after what really looks good to us, but in reality is not best for us is not a new temptation. Contemporary culture seems to have an obsessive-compulsive urge to identify with celebrities or attain rock star status. Seeking to be in the picture with cultural icons has always been relentlessly pursued, even before the invention of the camera or cell phone.
There has always been a temptation for the “Have Nots” to look upon the lifestyles of the rich and famous “Haves” with a voracious hunger. The point seems to be that this kind of longing for what others have, property, popularity, possessions, or power, is ultimately disrespectful to God. Looking at what others have and convincing yourself you are entitled to a piece of their property is a sin against God.
Proverbs warns against an “envy” of sinners that would lead a person to be jealous of or to be zealous for, or to provoke themselves into a passion for something that someone has. The word “sinner” describes someone who is exposed to condemnation, one who bears blame, one counted culpable, or reckoned as an offender against God. It is unacceptable to God for His children to envy the life and the property of those who choose to be separated from Him. Looking to other people and wishing for what God has not provided them is not child-like, but childish.
The Ten Commandments explicitly and extensively warned God’s people not to covet what others had. This would protect their hearts from harboring thoughts of dissatisfaction and discontent. Looking upon the possessions of others with a seething, relentless resentment, or a work stopping, wishful thinking are two extremes of the pendulum of covetousness.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” — Exodus 20:17
The Law of God specifically forbids the cultivation of a culture of covetous class envy. God’s plan was never about a redistribution of wealth based upon the dissatisfaction and discontent of the “Have Nots” taking what they want from the “Haves.” God’s Law pointed out the blind logic that was a result of an “I” problem on the part of the “Have Nots.” They were called upon to resist looking upon the “Haves” as source for getting hold of what they considered to be their “fair share” of property that did not belong to them. Desiring what others had did not make it theirs. They were to look to God for their needs, not take what others had to satisfy their wants.
The Hebrews saw the heart as having the capacity to: incline to understanding, hold fast to, keep, trust, flow, be inscribed upon, be wise, be perverted, be sickened, be in pain, rest, be open, be joyful, be sad, be cheerful, instruct, be haughty, be proud, rage, plan, be cleansed, be channeled, be weighed, be pure, be foolish, be given, hold abominations, and reflect the truth. They believed that what was on the inside of a person was going to come out, sooner or later. Long before people start hanging out with and enjoying the company of those who have offended God, their heart was regularly inclined to lean in their direction through misguided envy.
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of a man reflects man.” — Proverbs 27:19
Spiritual Awakening begins with a wake up call to those who have given their hearts to God. The Hebrews understood the heart to be the seat of the emotions and passions. In a man’s heart resides the capacity for moral character and courageous living. The heart was a term used to describe the mind, the will and the emotions. From it flowed the knowledge and understanding necessary to think clearly and to engage in reflective memory. Quoting God’s word to others has value, but it pales in significance to the capacity and passion to apply it to one’s own life.
A hardened heart is resistant to God’s touch, but persistent prayer, like consistent rain, softens the heart of person to receive instruction from the Word of God. Prayer puts a person in a position to revere again what they once held dear, time with the One who has their best interests at heart. Prayer reflects the heart of a person who believes The Father knows best.
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
Gary and Dana Miller, TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Ministries
For over 40 years, Gary and Dana Miller have invested their lives in the pastoral ministry of churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia. Gary and Dana believe the hope of the world is the local church, and the strength of the church is sustained by praying people.
They have taught extensively on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening, counseled people to build strong marriages by equipping husbands and wives to pray together and have ministered internationally in Hong Kong, Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Switzerland through their TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Prayer Conferences.
Gary and Dana live in Fort Worth, Texas and have been married for 40 years. They are parents of two grown daughters, Ashley and Allyson.