A national contest called the Great American Think-Off was announced today in our local paper. Contestants are invited to write a 750 word or less essay on what you should trust more – your head or your heart. That they call it the “think-off” could be a clue to which will be more useful to the winner.
The Bible indicates that man is made of heart, mind, soul, and strength: we love God with all of our faculties. Mark writes,
Mar 12:30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’
A man would be crippled who could think but have no emotion. And a man who is driven by mere passion, will pay the penalty for his foolishness.
In Biblical terms, the distinction between heart and mind is the difference between reason and emotion. The heart is called the “seat of the emotions.” But it is the head that thinks. The question is not really where we think; the question at issue in the essay is whether emotion or mind is more trustworthy.
In the Old Testament, the prophet said, “the heart is more deceitful than anything else, who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9). This passage has often been used to show the foolishness of trusting in your heart instead of reason. The heart can be easily misled. Without trying to argue against such reason, the word translated “heart” is described as having “thoughts” (Gen. 6:5). Many times it is said that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. A hard-hearted person cannot please God. On the other hand, a good heart is very pleasing to God. When Moses asked Israel to contribute, God said it would be those whose heart moved them to contribute (Ex. 25:2; Ex. 35:5). People without heart are cold and insenstive. So we must not neglect it.
But what moves the heart? Knowledge moves and compels it. Exodus 35 speaks of the people contributing to the construction of the tabernacle as their hearts were stirred. But what “stirred” their hearts was the knowledge of God’s plan. Moses related to the people what was the will of God. The mind of the people had to first be reached with the message before the heart could be stirred to give.
When Eli the High Priest feared, and emotion, that the ark of the covenant would fall into the hands of the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 4:13), it says that he trembled in his heart. That the heart relied on the head is evident. If he had been oblivious to the danger, his heart would not have known to fear. And when the ark was lost to the enemy, he heard the commotion and grew in his concern. And when the messenger told him the fate of the ark, he was overtaken by the news and fell over and died having broken his neck. Eli’s head informed his heart that trembled.
There are many examples to turn to in Scripture, but it is evident that God first speaks to the head, then the heart. We understand that we love, an emotion, because He first loved us (see 1 John 4:19, cf vss. 10-19). The message of Jesus Christ has to first reach the mind, then the heart. We love because God revealed His love through His creation and through Jesus Christ, the Word which became flesh. It is the incarnate Word who communicates to our head with the message of truth. The message alone is compelling. Paul said as much to the Corinthians: “the love of Christ controls us having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). It is in the heart that we love, but it is in the head that the “concluding” occurs. We concluded that God loves us by the facts of the Gospel, and in turn we love God.
It is not the heart that reads the Bible. It is the heart that is changed by the message told in the Bible. On the other hand, it is not mere intellect or reason that pleases God. Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1,2) We love God with our heart and our mind. We can’t do without either, but the heart follows the head. This is how God made us.
The way God hardens a heart