Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart…”

At the end of chapter 4 of Proverbs we see the popular verse, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” What does this mean? How is it done?

  • Verses 24-27 tell us to keep ourselves from perverse talk, and to not be tempted to leave the path of righteousness

We guard our hearts by refusing to speak sinfully, though it were jokingly, for if we joke about sin enough it begins to seem trivial to us, or begins to seem as though we had already committed it. We are inoculated against the holy terror of it, and thus find it more tempting and ourselves less willing to resist and flee from it.

We guard our hearts by steadfastly remaining focused on righteousness. Solomon exhorts us to “…fix your gaze directly before you.” If we let our eyes wander to all the other possibilities; if we are focused on all that passes us by or all that is not righteousness, we WILL swerve from the path. Let us, rather, be purposeful about constantly (and I mean that in a literal, small unit of time sense) focusing and re-focusing our hearts, thoughts, and eyes on Christ. Let us make supreme effort to not be distracted by all the promised pleasure on either side of the narrow path. We know well that these false promises only lead to ruin.

  • Secondly, in the verses before verse 23, not for the first time we are exhorted to keep the word in our hearts and not let it out of our sight.

If we desire to guard our heart, we must know what is right, good, and pleasing to God. We must know what things to guard our speech against, and what to fix our eyes upon. We know these things through the gushing, raging, deep, wide, and powerful river of knowledge that is the Word of God. Let us delve into its depths to search out the mind and heart of God.

He also exhorts us to not let these words out of our sight. I am quite certain he isn’t asking us to walk around with books open in front of our eyes all the time. No, he is exhorting us to meditate on the Word. If we, as he says in the sentence after, keep his commands in our heart (that is to say – if we know scripture and are purposeful about learning and memorizing it), we can keep them before our eyes at any time by meditating on them. How? Suppose we spend 15 minutes in the morning memorizing a verse or two. All that day, in our free time, or walking time, or down time we may think on the verse(s) and attempt to understand all of its implications, applications, and how we ourselves are being obedient or disobedient to it. This will, hopefully, lead us in our thinking to other scriptures we can remember, with which we can do the same thing. Thereby we keep the Word before our mind’s eye all day long.

Father, give me the steadfastness to guard my heart!


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