Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
– Proverbs 4:23
The concept of heart in the Old Testament was the seat (foundation) of the mind, will and intellect. This was that invisible essence of God’s imprint that defines our existence as a unique human being. Consequently, it is the vital center of our life and existence. All our sense of beliefs, values and priorities are forged in the heart. Like many things, our actions and behaviors reveal the true values of that same heart.
The admonition here is to keep or guard your heart. The author is portrayed as a Father giving instructions to his son and encouraging him to protect something in his life that has great value, his heart. It follows a warning to watch out for evil people who exploit others for their own personal gain (4:14-19) and a second warning in chapter five about the immoral woman (5:3-11). His son is to be careful whom he listens to because there are seductive tendencies to make commitments to people who will bring great harm to his life.
The word “keep” can be translated as, “to guard” something in a good sense. It can also have a negative connotation (depending on the context) of “concealing or hiding something. The danger is obvious: when we do evil it is easy to conceal or hide things in our heart from others (including God). The positive spin on this is to protect what we allow into our heart because it can become toxic.
But the son is to guard his heart with all vigilance.The word picture of vigilance here is that of a guard, either of a man, the post or the prison. The idea is to always be alert, careful to be aware of any danger or threat. Obviously the issue is being careful to not let the bad things out and to be careful to what we allow into one’s heart.
Even unbelieversrealize we live in a world that has many threats to our kids. They too are careful about who their kids hang out with and what they are getting into. But their reasons for that may also be different in that they have permissions and latitude with raising kids that many Christians may not feel comfortable with.
A carnal Christianhas little concern for what comes into their heart. They believe that as long as he does not actually go and do what he was watching on television or online or listening to then there is no harm or wrong-doing. They think they can suck in a lot of inappropriate (unrighteous, unholy, immoral) things and as long as they don’t act on that they are doing fine.
An immature Christianusually is concerned with what he can get away with without getting in trouble. They still like indulging in the stuff of the world and are often driven by selfishness. God is more of concierge who will “forgive” them because they trusted Jesus but God does not really care about these insignificant issues. It is easy to brush off others as being legalistic and unforgiving about their inappropriate or sinful behavior.
The legalistic Christian(for lack of better terminology) gives himself permission for things that the Bible does not explicitly say anything about or they will claim that this does not really affect anything in their life so there is no harm in “enjoying” whatever it is they are enjoying.
The healthy Christianrealizes that out of the heart flows either evil or good and what he absorbs into his heart and mind does impact the way he thinks, acts and feels. He is concerned about the deeper areas of righteousness and seek to bring all of his thought-life under the authority of Christ. He desires to honor God.
The disciple-making Christian– like the healthy Christian they too want to live a holy and righteous life. In addition to how they guard their heart from the bad and evil things in the world because they know it is toxic, they realize that simply avoiding bad stuff is not sufficient. They need to feed their heart, soul and mind with the nourishment of God’s truth and presence. This is where life grows in a believer and is reflected as the spring of life that flows out of their life. This is what it means to keep our heart with all diligence.