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Why do you need to guard your heart above all else (Proverbs 4:23)?

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Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” These words of wisdom from King Solomon emphasize the importance of protecting our innermost being. Our heart is the source of our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Therefore, it is crucial to guard our hearts above all else.

The heart is a powerful force that drives our actions and influences our thinking and behavior. It can either lead us down a path of righteousness or a path of destruction. Our hearts are susceptible to sinful thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Hence, we must be mindful of what we allow into our hearts; everything we do flows from it.

Guarding our hearts is about protecting ourselves from external and internal factors. We must be mindful of the things we think about, the things we set our affection on, and the things we give our attention to. Negativity, bitterness, and anger can take root in our hearts and lead to sinful behavior. For this reason, the apostle Paul says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Guarding your heart means choosing to focus on godly thoughts (Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8), as well as seeking wisdom and guidance from God (Proverbs 4:7; James 1:5).

When we guard our hearts, we take responsibility for our mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being. In doing so, we protect ourselves from sinful influences that impede spiritual progress (Hebrews 12:1–3). By guarding our hearts, we become who God designed us to be (Ephesians 2:10).

There are several reasons why it is imperative to guard our hearts. First, our hearts have a significant impact on our relationship with God, and the condition of our heart can either draw us closer or push away us away from Him. When we meditate on the Word of God (Psalm 1:2) and allow it to sink into our hearts, we are radically transformed and will experience a greater sense of peace, joy, and contentment (John 10:10; Philippians 4:6–7; Galatians 5:22–23).

On the other hand, allowing sinful influences to take root in our hearts will hinder our relationship with God. We will struggle to pray, read the Bible, and may even feel distant from God. Thus, we must guard our hearts and cultivate a deeper relationship with God.

The second reason why it is imperative to guard our hearts is that the heart impacts our relationship with others. It can draw us closer to others or estrange us from them. For example, if we cultivate an attitude of love, kindness, and compassion toward others (Ephesians 4:32), we will build strong and meaningful connections with them. A heart of patience, understanding, and forgiveness creates a culture of trust and mutual respect (1 Corinthians 12:25–27).

On the other hand, allowing sinful thoughts to take root in our hearts and harboring resentment, bitterness, or envy toward others will create a toxic culture that drives people away. Strained and broken relationships are the natural result of sinful thoughts.

In John Bunyan’s The Holy War, the author pictures the heart as a city called Mansoul. In the allegory, access to Mansoul is obtained through five gates: Eye-Gate (one of the most significant gates), Ear-Gate (where the enemy of Mansoul, Diabolus, first attacks the city), Mouth-Gate, Feel-Gate (which is weakly guarded), and Nose-Gate. These entry points “could never be opened nor forced but by the will and leave of those within” (ch. 1, p. 62). Mr. Godly-Fear is in charge of the gatekeeping, and all of Diabolus’s attacks on Mansoul are repelled as long as Godly-Fear is the gatekeeper (chapter 15, p. 285).

Casting Crown’s 2007 song “Slow Fade” sounds a warning to guard your heart:
“Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands
As darkness pulls the strings. . . .
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away.
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to grey
And thoughts invade, choices are made,
A price will be paid
When you give yourself away.
People never crumble in a day” (John Mark Hall, BMG Rights Management, Capitol CMG Publishing).

Guarding our hearts in godly fear is essential for maintaining a healthy relationship with God and others and for maintaining our own spiritual health. It means being intentional about what we allow into our hearts. It involves choosing to focus on thoughts and influences that promote love, kindness, and compassion. It means seeking God’s wisdom and guidance through prayer and meditation and allowing His love to flow through us to others. When we exercise discernment and guard our hearts, we experience the joy and blessings that come from living in community with other believers, and we become more effective in sharing God’s love and truth with the world.

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Why do you need to guard your heart above all else (Proverbs 4:23)?
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This page last updated: May 3, 2023