The Bible says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jeremiah 17:9) When our heart wants something very much, we can easily find excuses to do what it wants.
The Bible gives us a serious warning: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.” (Matthew 15:19) Our heart, the person we are inside, can deceive us and make us do something that is against God’s will. And we may not realize that our heart has deceived us until after we have made a mistake. What can help us to know what is in our heart before we do something wrong?
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART
Read the Bible every day and meditate on what it says. The apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.” God’s Word “is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) When we study the Bible, we should examine our own thinking and actions. This will help us to find out what is really in our heart. So it is very important to read the Bible every day and meditate on what it says. This will help us to think the way Jehovah thinks.
If we pay attention to what the Bible says, this will train our conscience. Our conscience is like a voice inside of us. It can tell us that something is wrong and stop us from making excuses to do what is bad. (Romans 9:1) The Bible also has many examples that can be “a warning to us.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) If we learn from these examples, we can avoid making bad decisions. What else can help us?
Pray to God to help you find out what is in your heart. Jehovah is “an examiner of the heart.” (1 Chronicles 29:17) He “is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” (1 John 3:20) God knows everything about us. If we sincerely tell him in prayer about our worries, feelings, and desires, Jehovah can help us to know what is in our heart. We can even ask God to give us “a pure heart.” (Psalm 51:10) So prayer is a very important way to get help from Jehovah.
Listen carefully to what is said at the meetings. This can help us to think seriously about the person we are inside. It is true that we may not learn something new at every meeting. But if we are always there, we can get a better understanding of Bible principles. We receive counsel that can help us find out what is in our heart, and then we can make changes. The comments of our brothers and sisters can also help us very much. (Proverbs 27:17) But if we do not regularly get together with our brothers at the meetings, we can begin to focus too much on ourselves and make unwise decisions. (Proverbs 18:1) So it would be good to ask yourself, ‘Do I go to all the meetings and pay attention to what is said?’
HOW CAN YOUR HEART DECEIVE YOU?
Our heart can deceive us in many different ways. Let us discuss four: the desire for material things, the use of alcohol, our choice of friends, and what we do for entertainment.
The desire for material things. We all need food, clothing, and a place to live. There is nothing wrong with wanting these things. But Jesus warned us not to put material things first in our life. Jesus told a story about a rich man whose storehouses were full of grain. He had no place to store grain for the next harvest, so he wanted to tear down his storehouses and build larger ones. He thought to himself: “There I will gather all my grain and all my good things; and I will say to my soul: ‘Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.’” But this rich man forgot one important fact: If he died that night, all his work would be for nothing.
As we get older, we may begin to worry about having enough money for our old age. As a result, we may start making excuses to work more hours, miss meetings, do less in the preaching work, and not care for our Christian responsibilities. Or we may be young and know that full-time service is the best way of life. But we might think that we should work and save some money before we start pioneering. If this is the way you think, remember that now is the time to do your best in God’s service. After all, none of us know whether we will be alive tomorrow.
The use of alcohol. Proverbs 23:20 says: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine.” If you have a strong desire to drink alcohol, you may make excuses to drink it often. For example, you may say: ‘I don’t drink to get drunk. I just drink to relax.’ If this is your situation, think honestly about what is in your heart, and do not let it deceive you.
Our choice of friends. Every day, we are around people who do not serve Jehovah, whether at school, at work, or in the preaching work. But it would be wrong to spend more time than necessary with them or even have close friendships with them. We may make excuses and say that these people have many good qualities. But the Bible warns: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Just as a little bit of dirty water can ruin clean water, friendships with those who do not love God can ruin our friendship with Jehovah. We may begin to think, dress, speak, and act like people in the world.
What we do for entertainment. With modern technology, it is easy to find all kinds of entertainment. But much of this entertainment is not good for a Christian. Paul told Christians not even to speak about things that are unclean. (Ephesians 5:3) What if we have a strong desire to watch or listen to something that is unclean? We may make excuses and say that we all need to have some fun and that what we do for entertainment is our own choice. But we should always obey Paul’s counsel and not watch or listen to anything that is unclean.
WE CAN MAKE CHANGES
Even if our heart has deceived us and we have made excuses for wrong actions, it is not too late to make changes. (Ephesians 4:22-24) Let us consider two examples.
Miguel had to change how he felt about material things. * (See footnote.) He says: “My wife, son, and I are from a country where obtaining the latest and the best in technology and comfort is considered very important. At one point, I devoted myself to obtaining all I could from the world, thinking that I could do this without becoming materialistic.” But soon Miguel realized that he was wrong. He prayed that Jehovah would help him change his way of thinking. Miguel adds: “I made it known to him that as a family, we wanted to serve him fully. We were able to make a decision to simplify our lives and move to where the need was greater. Soon we were able to pioneer. We have come to see that we do not need much materially in order to have a full and happy life.”
Lee spent too much time with the wrong kind of friends. His experience shows how important it is to stop and think carefully about what we want and what we do. Lee would regularly go out to drink with people he did business with. He knew that people would get drunk at those meetings, but he still enjoyed going. Many times he almost got drunk himself, but later he would feel bad about what he had done. He realized that he needed to change his thinking. He explains: “The counsel of God’s Word and suggestions of the elders helped me to realize that what I was really seeking was association with people who do not love Jehovah.” Now, instead of meeting with those people, Lee tries to do most of his business with them by telephone.
We need to be honest with ourselves and find out what is really in our heart. How can we do that? We can pray to Jehovah, who “is aware of the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:21) We also have God’s Word. When we read it, it can be like a mirror that can help us to see the person we really are. (James 1:22-25) We also receive counsel from Jehovah through our meetings and publications. All these things can help us to protect our heart and keep doing what is right.
^ par. 18 Names have been changed.