Proverbs 4:23 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, I love the way it talks about guarding your heart above all else, but have you ever thought about what it means to guard your heart?
What Guarding Your Heart Actually Means
The Bible tells us to guard our hearts because not doing so can cause great difficulties for us. So let’s look at what it means to guard your heart. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word guard in the following ways:
- (to) watch over in order to protect or control
- (to) protect against damage or harm
In both of the scenarios above, some action is required on our part. We must do something if we are going to control or protect our hearts. It’s important for us to understand that the things in our hearts drive our actions. So we must ensure that our hearts are pure and in line with God’s teaching.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full affiliate policy.
What does God say about guarding your heart?
Because God understands how important it is to guard your heart, there are numerous Bible verses that admonish us to do so.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1 ESV
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 ESV
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 ESV
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 ESV
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 ESV
A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13 ESV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19 ESV
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Matthew 12:35 ESV
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life Proverbs 4:23 (NLT).
A proverb by definition is a statement that reflects a general truth or piece of advice. This particular proverb made it into the collection of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Is it a promise? No, but it’s a very good piece of advice. So, how do you guard your heart?
What Does the Heart Represent Spiritually?
Before we can talk about how you can guard your heart, we have to first understand what the heart represents spiritually. Today, when we refer to our hearts, we’re usually speaking about our emotional center—the place where love and feelings dwell. But the heart in the Hebrew culture represented a bit more than just emotion.
The word translated as heart in our English Bibles is the Hebrew word lêb. This word does mean heart in the literal sense but could also be used figuratively to mean feelings. Interestingly, lêb also extends to the will, the mind, and even the intellect. To a Hebrew, the heart is the center of everything, including understanding and wisdom.Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life Proverbs 4:23 (NLT). #hebrews12endurance #guardyourheart Click To Tweet
To put it in Western terms, the lêb or heart is synonymous with the mind or intellect. It is not only the center of feeling but also the center of reasoning and thought.
What Are Issues Of The Heart?
Since we understand that the heart refers to the mind and the heart in Western terminology, we can understand the issues of the heart to be anything that we face. These would include our challenges with our identity in Christ, problems with our children, coworkers, friends…in fact, anything that affects your life is an issue of the heart.
Guard Your Heart with All Diligence
We are told to “guard our hearts with all diligence” but what does “above all else guard your heart” mean? To get a better understanding of what it means to guard your heart above all else, let’s look at two more Hebrew words nâtsar and mishmâr.
In Proverbs 4:23, nâtsar is translated to mean keep but it could also mean to guard, protect, observe, preserve, maintain, or obey. It could also mean to conceal.
The Hebrew word mishmâr means diligence, guard, office, prison, ward, or watch. It is used to refer to a guard—in the sense of the man, the post, or the prison. So when the Bible tells us to guard our hearts it’s really telling us to protect our consciousness like we were a prison guard.
Why It’s Important To Guard Your Heart
You have probably wondered, Why do we need to guard our hearts? There are many benefits of guarding your heart. If the heart represents the center of our existence and everything (all our problems, solutions, resolutions, happiness) come out of it, then we need to fill our center with good things. Here are two good reasons to guard your heart.
Protects your character
We guard our hearts because we want to reflect the character and goodness of God. We’ve all heard it said:
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT).
When we get into the habit of guarding our hearts, we protect our characters from things that would mar it or that would further distort the image of our Creator. Guarding our hearts prevents us from buckling under the impact of bad influence.
The people of biblical times knew you had to be careful about the things you let influence you. They were fully aware that those influences would eventually flow out of a person. If we stuff a candy bar with bitter lemon, we can’t expect sweet caramel to flow from it.
Serves as a witness
When you guard your heart, it serves as a testimony of the God you serve. You see, a lot of times when bad things happen, we tend to blame God. We accuse Him of not wanting the best for us as if He were somehow responsible for our choices.
But when we guard our hearts, we remember that the best place to be is in the presence of the Most High because only then will we be able to receive His peace and bask in His love. As we learn to guard our hearts, our souls testify that we have been in the presence of God and so we draw others to Him.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
Ways to Guard Your Heart
Maybe you’ve asked the question, how do I guard my heart? After all, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images, sounds, and smells. So much so that it has been reported that the average human now has an attention span of 8 seconds (that’s less than a goldfish). Our poor brains are subjected to so much stimuli that had it not been so marvelously designed, we would not be able to withstand it.
It’s more important than ever for us to be careful what we let into our heads.
Paul encouraged the believers in Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2) because even then it was evident that a lot of the battle that Satan wages against God’s people takes place in our heads.
Related: What Does It Mean to be Wise?
Yes, we know that we should guard the entrances to our heart: our eyes and ears, but it’s so hard! How do you filter through the stuff so that only the good things get in? Solomon gave us some tips on how to do that in Proverbs 4:24-27:
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil (NKJV).
In layman’s terms, there are four main things you can do to guard your heart.Do you know how to guard your heart? Here are 4 simple ways! #hebrews12endurance #guardyourheart Click To Tweet
1. Watch what you say.
Avoid using perverse, crooked speech. Avoid vain (idle) words or language that reveals a heart set on disobedience. Don’t defiantly speak against what is right. Remember, what the heart is full of is what will flow out of the heart.
It’s much too easy for us to negate what we say by pretending it’s a joke or telling the other person we didn’t mean it. Even when we’re trying to live a godly life, it’s sometimes much too easy for lies to slip from our lips. We may even justify them by saying they’re just “little lies” but can lies be little?
I don’t think so. I believe the weight of every lie is the same regardless of our intent.
2. Focus on what is before you
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV).
Related: In His Image Book Review
Don’t seek out trouble. I don’t know about you but I have met people who always seem to be in the midst of some disaster or mischief. There are people who seem to thrive on stirring up trouble but that kind of behavior is destructive.
It distracts the persons involved from focusing on what God had intended them to. Each of us has been given a task and we need to do it to the best of our abilities. But unless we focus on Christ who is our example, we’ll get drawn away by things that were never any of our business in the first place.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)
3. Think about where your feet are going
Have you ever been headed somewhere but got distracted by your thoughts or something that’s happening around you only to end up in a different place than you intended? If we don’t think about where we’re going, we may end up going in the wrong direction.
It’s one thing to be going straight ahead, it’s quite another to be going straight ahead in the wrong direction!
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).
4. Stay away from evil.
Don’t stray from the path that leads to Christ. If you find yourself going down the wrong path, stop. Turn back. Find the path that leads to Jesus and go that way.Don’t stray from the path that leads to Christ. If you find yourself going down the wrong path, stop. #hebrews12endurance #guardyourheart Click To Tweet
The way of the world will always seem easier than the path required by God. The enemy tells us we can do whatever we want to do, but God expects us to be disciplined. He expects to be the ruler of our lives which may mean that sometimes we don’t get to do what we want to do. God encourages you to guard your heart.
The advice to stay away from evil may seem like a big thing, but it’s as simple as obedience. God is still speaking. He communicates with us through His Word and through prayer. As we tune into His heart, we’ll understand His desire for us and will learn to do the things He requires of us.
If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21 GNT).
As believers, we are urged to diligence. We must guard our thoughts because they influence our desires. We must guard our desires because they affect our appetite. The things we crave, we work hard for and if we crave the wrong things, it will eventually be reflected in our lives.
How do you guard your heart above all else? You guard your heart by focusing on the things of God and blocking out the things that seek to distract you from your purpose.
You may also like: