The word “heart” is important in relation to one's treasure. The Bible says a great deal about the heart, using the term 830 times. Only rarely does Scripture mention the heart as a sustainer of physical life, while referring to it frequently to express traits of what it means to be human. In most cases, what it says about the human heart is not encouraging.
God states this truth in Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of His doing.” This description of unconverted, carnal man does not place humanity in a good light. Solomon urges, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Keep possesses the sense of “guard” and “preserve.” We must understand that the heart describes or exposes human character and personality.
Scripture often uses the heart to define what in a person's personality sets him or her apart as different from others. An unconverted person who is therefore not dedicated to God may be said to have an uncircumcised heart. Others may be described as having an evil heart or a humble heart. Ezekiel describes the process of conversion as a person transforming his heart from one of stone to one of flesh. There are frequent calls for us to seek God with all our heart. In Psalm 131:1, the psalmist claims that his heart is not proud.
In addition, the Bible uses the heart to express human emotion. In Exodus 4:14, Aaron's heart overflows with joy when he sees Moses. Leviticus 19:17 warns us not to hate our brother in our heart. Deuteronomy 1:28 speaks of fear as motivating a loss of heart, while Psalm 27:3 illustrates courage as a product of the heart. Elsewhere in Scripture, we find that despair, sadness, trust, and anger also come from the heart.
In Matthew 15:19-20, Jesus clarifies a major teaching about human conduct:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things, which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
He pinpoints the human heart as a primary motivator of sinful behaviors that we witness in others and, more importantly, carry out ourselves. As the many examples imply, “the heart” is not the literal, fleshly muscle pumping blood, and thus life, through our bodies, but the symbolic representation of a person's entire inner being. In Matthew 15:19-20, none of the behaviors is commendable conduct because those to whom Jesus refers are unconverted, sinful men.
The above examples testify to the uncontrolled and potentially damaging uses of the emotional powers God created us to possess. The flip-side of this is that through God's calling, the receipt of His Holy Spirit, and conversion, the heart can be brought under control. The heart's inclinations to motivate conduct can be changed, transformed to produce the good conduct God intends.
Be aware that what motivates conduct can be changed in either direction. If allowed, treasure can easily motivate humans into strenuous activity to possess it. We must take Jesus' caution in verse 21 seriously: Our heart will follow the treasure to possess it. His words are a firm warning to make sure our treasure is God-approved.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Five)