“Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart…”
It is very common today to hear phrases like, “follow your heart.” This seems to be the most common counsel given as it relates to decision making today. When someone is trying to determine if a relationship is good or not, or whether they should take a job, or change careers, the most common advice seems to be, “follow your heart.” It’s as if the most trustworthy guide for human behavior and decision making is an inner compass called the heart. There are some significant problems with that advice.
First off, when we refer to the heart in this context, we are not speaking of an actual organ or even mechanism, instead we are making reference to what philosophers define as the seat of emotion. Some cultures refer to the bowels, kidneys or stomach to speak of the same thing. What a person is actually saying when they advise you to follow you heart, is to follow your emotions. The question we must ask is, “Are the emotions a trustworthy guide for living?” Have your emotions ever confused you or led you astray? Have you found that your emotions change drastically from day to day or even moment to moment? I think we all would concede that emotions are a poor compass to guide us through life.
Second, the Bible warns us that the heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). That means our heart or emotions will not always guide us toward what is best. There are times when we knowingly do things that are harmful to ourselves, the people we love, and our relationship with the Lord. To allow our heart to be our guide is like using a broken compass or a faulty map. Years ago my wife and a group of ladies from the church traveled to Washington DC. Having downloaded a map offline, they proceeded to drive through the city. They found a large public building had been built where a road was supposed to be. Following the heart is like following a faulty map, you will not get where you desire to go.
Instead of letting emotions be our guide, Jeremiah exhorts us to use the Word of God as the principle force to direct us through the journey of life. Decision making should lead us to the Word, where we will find the things that matter to God. The Word of God will help us determine the best course of action, given the circumstances we are facing.
Let’s allow the Word “to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.” (Psalm 119:105)