There is a certain phrase that makes me chuckle every time I hear someone say it. Especially when it is said in justification of an act committed that was contrary to the word of God. It is ‘God knows my heart;’ (which implies that they know they are doing something that is wrong but inside, they are really good people). To which I sometimes ask the question quoting Jeremiah Ch. 17, v. 9, “That it is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked?” I often receive icy stares after that. No one likes to hear that even on their very best days, they are not innately good. Even Jesus declared, “No one is good but One, that is, God” during the discourse between Him and the rich, young ruler.
According to an entry in Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word for good is kalos, which was applied by the Greeks to everything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, as to be pleasing, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, suitable, commendable, admirable, magnificent, excellent in nature and characteristics and therefore well-adapted to its ends, praiseworthy, noble, beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life and hence morally good. The preceding defines perfection and certainly does not apply to myself or anyone that I know.
To my knowledge, the last time Almighty God described His creation as good, was before the fall of man, when He saw everything that He had made and declared, most approvingly, that it was very good Gen Ch.1 v. 31.
Some may argue that they know people who do good things all the time. However, my view is not about doing good, as everyone of us has the innate ability to do good and behave good but according to the word of God, not one of us is innately good, but One, that is, God.
I suspect, when someone says God knows his/her heart, he/she is making reference to his/her spirit or ru wach, which is Hebrew for ‘wind’ or ‘by resemblance of breath.’ However, it is erroneous to refer to the spirit, as actions are usually carried out after a thought; and we all know that thoughts occur in the mind.
Now the word heart is used extensively in the bible. However, it is used when reference is made to the mind/soul, and also to the spirit. Both being the innermost being of each individual. For instance, when Adam was formed and the breath of life (the pneuma – Greek translation for the word spirit) was breathed into his nostrils, he became a living being. That is, he became a living soul with an active mind. In this case, if the word heart was used instead of the word mind, then heart would indicate the mind, where thoughts and feelings occur. The Greek word for heart-mind/soul is nephesh, which means a breathing creature or mortal one with a mind.
Another example is found in Exodus Chap. 23 v 9, when the children of Israel were commanded “not to oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The word heart here means feelings. So, they were being encouraged to show empathy, kindness and to a great extent love to the strangers in their midst as they were expected to relate to the feelings of the stranger.
Yet again, in 2Samuel Chap. 3 v 21, Abner, the first cousin and Commander-in-Chief of Saul’s army joined forces with King David saying to him, “I will arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” The desires of your heart speak of just about anything you can think of that you may want in your possession. Therefore, heart here alludes to longings of the mind/soul.
Now when the word heart is used to describe the spirit of man, it sometimes stands alone. To understand the contrast, we will take a look at Genesis Ch. 6 v 5 and v 6.
5“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In the preceding, evil intent derives from the thoughts of man’s heart. Therefore, the mind/soul is the epicenter of thoughts.
However, chapter 6 states, 6“…the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Here, the word heart refers to the spirit.
Another perfect example of the contrast is found in Psalm Ch. 51 v 10, where David pleads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The use of the conjunction “and” shows a distinction between the requests. David was asking for a different attitude or way of thinking in addition to a renewed spirit, one which was unwavering.
Today, Christ’s sacrifice guarantees everyone who would, “Confess with his/her mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in his/her heart that God has raised Him from the dead…” receives a renewed spirit. However, mind renewal or change in the way we think, is our responsibility as depicted in Romans Ch. 12 v 2, where Paul chided the believers in Rome to, “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
A change in the way we think is definitely an important factor for the continued health of the mind/soul for the Holy Spirit to function optimally in our lives, for the glory of God and for the edification of His church. Every believer ought to ask the Holy Spirit daily, to help him/her with such a transformation as it is of paramount importance.
In conclusion, I believe that the first step to humility is when one acknowledges that one is not innately good, only God is innately good. That is why we are in need of His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to dwell in us to bear witness with our renewed/regenerated spirits that we are His blood bought, redeemed ones.
By Gail Reid
All scriptures were taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).