“Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart.”—PROV. 4:23.
SONG 152 We Guard Our Hearts
1-3. (a) Why did Jehovah love Solomon, and what blessings did Solomon receive? (b) What questions will we answer in this article?
SOLOMON became king of Israel when he was just a young man. In the early part of his reign, Jehovah appeared to him in a dream and said: “Ask what you would like me to give you.” Solomon replied: “I am just a youth and I am inexperienced. . . . So grant your servant an obedient heart to judge your people.” (1 Ki. 3:5-10) “An obedient heart”—what a modest request that was! No wonder Jehovah loved Solomon! (2 Sam. 12:24) Our God was so pleased with the young king’s answer that he gave Solomon “a wise and understanding heart.”—1 Ki. 3:12.
2 As long as he was faithful, Solomon enjoyed many blessings. He had the honor of building a temple “for the name of Jehovah the God of Israel.” (1 Ki. 8:20) He became famous for his God-given wisdom. And the things he said when he was inspired by God are recorded in three books of the Bible. One of these is the book of Proverbs.
3 The heart is mentioned about a hundred times in the book of Proverbs. For example, at Proverbs 4:23, we read: “Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart.” In this verse, what does the word “heart” refer to? We will answer that question in this article. We will also consider the answers to two other questions: How does Satan try to infect, or corrupt, our heart? And what can we do to safeguard our heart? To remain faithful to God, we need to understand the answers to those important questions.
“YOUR HEART”—WHAT IS IT?
4-5. (a) How does Psalm 51:6 help us to understand what the word “heart” refers to? (b) How does our physical health illustrate the importance of who we are on the inside?
4 At Proverbs 4:23, the term “heart” is used to refer to “the inner person” or “secret self.” (Read Psalm 51:6 and footnote.) In other words, “heart” refers to our private thoughts, feelings, motives, and desires. It is who we really are on the inside, not just who we appear to be on the outside.
5 Consider how our physical health illustrates the importance of who we are on the inside. First, to keep ourselves in good condition on the inside, we must choose a healthy diet, and we need to exercise regularly. Likewise, to keep ourselves in good spiritual condition, we must choose a healthy diet of spiritual food and regularly exercise our faith in Jehovah. That form of exercise involves applying what we learn and speaking about our faith. (Rom. 10:8-10; Jas. 2:26) Second, based on outward appearance, we might think that we are healthy even though we are actually diseased on the inside. In a similar way, based on our theocratic routine, we may think that our faith is strong, but wrong desires could be growing in us. (1 Cor. 10:12; Jas. 1:14, 15) We must remember that Satan would like to infect us with his thinking. How, specifically, might he try to do that? And how can we protect ourselves?
HOW SATAN TRIES TO INFECT OUR HEART
6. What is Satan’s goal, and how does he try to achieve it?
6 Satan wants us to become like him—a rebel who ignores Jehovah’s standards and is motivated by selfishness. Satan cannot force us to reason and act as he does. So he tries to achieve his goal in other ways. For example, he surrounds us with people who are already corrupted by him. (1 John 5:19) He hopes that we will choose to spend time with them, even though we know that bad associations will “spoil” or “corrupt” the way we think and act. (1 Cor. 15:33; ftn.) That tactic worked with King Solomon. He married many pagan women, and they eventually “had a powerful influence over him” and “gradually inclined his heart” away from Jehovah.—1 Ki. 11:3; ftn.
7. What else does Satan use to spread his way of thinking, and why do we need to be cautious about it?
7 Satan uses movies and television shows to spread his way of thinking. He understands that storytelling does much more than entertain us; it teaches us how to think, feel, and act. Jesus made good use of this method of teaching. Take, for example, his parables of the neighborly Samaritan and of the son who left home and wasted his inheritance. (Matt. 13:34; Luke 10:29-37; 15:11-32) However, those who are infected with Satan’s thinking can use storytelling to corrupt us. We need to be balanced. Movies and TV shows can entertain and educate us without contaminating our thinking. But we must be cautious. When choosing entertainment, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Is this movie or TV show teaching me that it is all right to give in to my fleshly desires?’ (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1-3) What should you do if you detect that a program is promoting satanic thinking? Avoid it as you would a contagious disease!
8. How can parents help their children to safeguard their heart?
8 Parents, you have a special responsibility to safeguard your children from Satan’s efforts to infect their heart. You no doubt do all you can to protect your children from literal diseases. You keep your home clean, and you throw out anything that might cause you or your children to get sick. In the same way, you need to protect your children from movies, TV shows, electronic games, and websites that are likely to infect them with Satan’s thinking. Jehovah has given you the authority to care for the spiritual health of your children. (Prov. 1:8; Eph. 6:1, 4) So do not be afraid to set household rules that are based on Bible standards. Tell your young children what they can and cannot watch, and help them to understand the reasons for your decisions. (Matt. 5:37) As your children get older, train them to discern for themselves what is right and what is wrong according to Jehovah’s standards. (Heb. 5:14) And remember, your children will learn a lot from what you say but even more from what you do.—Deut. 6:6, 7; Rom. 2:21.
9. What is one idea promoted by Satan, and why is it dangerous?
9 Satan also tries to infect our heart by getting us to trust human wisdom rather than Jehovah’s thinking. (Col. 2:8) Consider just one idea promoted by Satan—that getting rich should be a primary goal in life. Those who think this way might become wealthy, or they might not. Either way, they are in danger. Why? Because they may become so focused on making money that they will sacrifice their health, their family relationships, and even their friendship with God just to reach their goal. (1 Tim. 6:10) We can be grateful that our wise heavenly Father helps us to have a balanced view of money.—Eccl. 7:12; Luke 12:15.
HOW CAN WE SAFEGUARD OUR HEART?
10-11. (a) What must we be able to do to protect ourselves? (b) What did watchmen do in ancient times, and how can our conscience act as our watchman?
10 If we are to succeed in safeguarding our heart, we must be able to identify dangers and react quickly to protect ourselves. The word translated “safeguard” at Proverbs 4:23 reminds us of the work done by a watchman. In King Solomon’s day, watchmen stood guard on the walls of a city and sounded an alarm if they saw danger approaching. That mental picture helps us understand what we must do to stop Satan from corrupting our thinking.
11 In ancient times, watchmen worked closely with city gatekeepers. (2 Sam. 18:24-26) Together, they helped protect the city by making sure that the gates were closed whenever an enemy came near. (Neh. 7:1-3) Our Bible-trained conscience * can act as our watchman and warn us when Satan tries to invade our heart—in other words, when he tries to influence our thoughts, feelings, motives, or desires. Whenever our conscience sounds the alarm, we need to listen and shut the gate, so to speak.
12-13. What might we be tempted to do, but how should we react?
12 Consider an example of how we can protect ourselves from being influenced by Satan’s thinking. Jehovah has taught us that “sexual immorality and every sort of uncleanness [should] not even be mentioned among [us].” (Eph. 5:3) But what will we do if peers at work or at school start talking about sexually immoral topics? We know that we should “reject ungodliness and worldly desires.” (Titus 2:12) The watchman, our conscience, might sound an alarm. (Rom. 2:15) But will we listen to it? We might be tempted, instead, to listen to our peers or to look at pictures they might be sharing. But this is the time to close the city gates, so to speak, by changing the conversation or by walking away.
13 It takes courage to resist pressure from our peers to think about or to do wrong things. We can be sure that Jehovah sees the effort we make, and he will give us the strength and wisdom we need to resist satanic thinking. (2 Chron. 16:9; Isa. 40:29; Jas. 1:5) How, though, can we continue to do our part in safeguarding our heart?
STAY ON GUARD
14-15. (a) To what do we need to open our heart, and how can we do so? (b) How does Proverbs 4:20-22 help us to get the most out of our Bible reading? (See also the box “How to Meditate.”)
14 To safeguard our heart, we must not only close it to wrong influences but also open it to positive influences. Think again about the illustration of a walled city. A gatekeeper closed the gates of the city to stop an enemy invasion, but at other times he opened the gates to allow food and other supplies to be brought in. If the gates were never open, the inhabitants of the city would starve. Similarly, we need to open our heart regularly to the influence of God’s thinking.
15 The Bible contains Jehovah’s thinking, so each time we read it, we allow Jehovah’s thoughts to affect the way we think, feel, and act. How can we get the most from our Bible reading? Prayer is vital. One Christian sister says: “Before I read the Bible, I pray to Jehovah, asking that he help me ‘see clearly the wonderful things’ in his Word.” (Ps. 119:18) We also need to meditate on what we read. When we pray, read, and meditate, God’s Word reaches “deep within [our] heart,” and we come to love Jehovah’s thinking.—Read Proverbs 4:20-22; Ps. 119:97.
16. How have many benefited from viewing JW Broadcasting?
16 Another way we allow God’s thinking to influence us is by watching the material available on JW Broadcasting®. One couple says: “The monthly programs have truly been an answer to our prayers! They have strengthened us and lifted us up when we feel sad or lonely. And the original songs are a constant feature in our house. We play them while cooking, cleaning, or just having tea.” These programs help us to safeguard our heart. They teach us to think the way Jehovah does and to resist the pressure to adopt Satan’s thinking.
17-18. (a) What happens when we apply what we learn from Jehovah, as shown at 1 Kings 8:61? (b) What can we learn from King Hezekiah’s example? (c) In harmony with David’s prayer found at Psalm 139:23, 24, for what can we pray?
17 Each time we see the benefits of doing what is right, our faith grows stronger. (Jas. 1:2, 3) We feel good because we have made Jehovah proud to call us one of his children, and our desire to please him becomes stronger. (Prov. 27:11) Each test becomes an opportunity to show that we are not halfhearted about serving our caring Father. (Ps. 119:113) Instead, we prove that we love Jehovah with a complete heart, one that is fully resolved to obey his commandments and to do his will.—Read 1 Kings 8:61.
18 Will we make mistakes? Yes; we are imperfect. If we do stumble, remember King Hezekiah’s example. He made mistakes. But he repented and kept on serving Jehovah “with a complete heart.” (Isa. 38:3-6; 2 Chron. 29:1, 2; 32:25, 26) Let us, then, reject Satan’s attempts to infect us with his thinking. Let us pray that we develop “an obedient heart.” (1 Ki. 3:9; read Psalm 139:23, 24.) We can remain faithful to Jehovah if, above all else, we safeguard our heart.
SONG 32 “This Is the Way”
^ par. 5 Will we remain faithful to Jehovah, or will we allow Satan to lure us away from our God? The answer depends, not on how severely we are tested, but on how well we safeguard our heart. What is meant by the word “heart”? How does Satan try to corrupt our heart? And how can we safeguard it? This article will answer those important questions.
^ par. 11 EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: Jehovah gave us the ability to examine our own thoughts, feelings, and actions and then to judge ourselves. The Bible calls that ability the conscience. (Rom. 2:15; 9:1) A Bible-trained conscience is one that uses Jehovah’s standards, as explained in the Bible, to judge if what we think, do, or say is good or bad.
^ par. 56 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A baptized brother is watching television and an immoral scene comes on the screen. He must decide what to do next.
^ par. 58 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A watchman in ancient times sees danger outside the city. He calls out to the gatekeepers below, and they respond immediately by closing the city gates and locking them from the inside.