The heart is a deep subject in the scriptures. It shows up over 700 times in the Bible and is used in several different ways. I’m not sure it can be easily defined. We are to love God with all of your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew and Mark). Our heart can have confidence (Psalm 27:3). God will not despise a repentant heart (Psalm 51:17). I like the way Max Lucado describes the biblical use of the word heart. He writes, “…the heart was the totality of the inner person—the control tower, the cockpit. The heart was thought of as the seat of the character—the origin of desires, affections, perceptions, thoughts, reasoning, imagination, conscience, intentions, purpose, will, and faith…To the Hebrew mind, the heart is a freeway cloverleaf where all emotions and prejudices and wisdom converge. It is a switch house that receives freight cars loaded with moods, ideas, emotions, and convictions and puts them on the right track.” I would add a short phrase at the end of Max’s thought, “…or the wrong track.”

There is one theme that is recurring regarding the heart. It is that the heart is the seat of all our motives in life. Only the “heart” can explain why we say the things we say. Jesus told his listeners on several occasions that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). In Luke 6:45, Jesus says the same thing. In Matthew 15:18, Jesus said that the heart, the motives behind our speech, is something that often results in sin. He said, “…but the things which go forth out of the mouth come out of the heart, and those defile man.” Now the wisest man in the world, Solomon, in the book of Proverbs tells us that we must “guard our hearts, above all else” (Proverbs 4:23). He explains why it’s so important by adding that the heart “is the wellspring of life.” Why we say what we say is determined by the heart. Matthew 12 goes on to say that a “good heart brings forth good things… while an evil heart brings forth evil things.”

What we say either helps others or hurts them. The Amplified version of the Bible translates Psalm 4:4 (the Psalm Paul quotes in Ephesians 4:26) as “Be angry [or stand in awe] and sin not; commune with your own hearts upon your beds and be silent…” It then gives a parenthetical explanation of this phrase. It is “…sorry for the things you say in your hearts.” I’m often sorry for the things I say with my mouth, but I’ve not spent much time repenting and being sorry for what I say in my heart. Paul gives us a clear directive regarding our speech. He writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” Ephesians 4:29. If the heart is on the right track, the words will be also.

“He (Paul) traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people…” Acts 20:2