The principle stated here is the key to improving one's physical health just as surely as it will improve one's spiritual health. The sense of the usage of "heart" here is synonymous with the English word "within," thus, what is within a person's mind is hidden from view when one looks from outside. Appearances can be very deceiving because what is within may be far different from what another can perceive. A person may appear smiling and jovial, but he may only be acting to achieve a scheme that ultimately profits him. Therefore, he is using others to achieve his end.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)
This idea, "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" applies both to the righteous and the evil. Here, the subject is evil. We can translate the first half of verse 7 in a more modern way as, "As he calculates in his soul." "Calculate" puts a twist on the word "thinks," making it a bit stronger and providing a sense of deceit—that the person is considering the odds of a scheme.
In all three verses, Solomon warns against exploitative people, against those who are slick controllers who manipulate others through charm or beguiling words. God is telling us that we need to have enough discernment to look on the heart, as the proverb says, "As he thinks in his heart, so is he."
There is an inseparable connection between teaching and practice: We cannot practice truth until we are taught it. We pick up some things from our culture because people do not do everything wrong; from time to time, they hit upon things that are right. Thus, in Romans 2, Paul writes about the conscience of the unconverted. There may be little or much in a given culture in harmony with God and His way.
So, as a person thinks in his heart—as he has been educated to think—is the way he really is. Doctrine - teaching - becomes important because, within the framework of His purpose, we really cannot walk in way of God until He teaches us the truth. He must feed the mind with the right knowledge if the person is going to do right as a way of life. This is what God is after, which is why doctrine is so important.
Thus, God says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). This verse does not mean that the child will do everything right but that the child's basic training will never completely leave him, and if his parents start him off in the right way, "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree." It is a generality, but a true one. What people need is truth. We need the doctrines put together in the correct way so they lead in the right direction—toward God's purpose.
What matters is the thinking material that the person works with because the knowledge that his mind, his heart, assimilates will form the basis from which he calculates. If a person lacks truth, he will not come to proper decisions and produce the right actions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part Eleven)
We live in a society absorbed with its own feelings. Today, people are addicted to seeing themselves as victims and demanding special tolerance, favor, acceptance, or gifts. Yet a mind concerned with its own painful experiences, rejections, mistakes, or emotional hurts is one that refuses healing. These emotions comfort like old bandages, and many are afraid to see what is underneath. Some cling to them because they give special "handicap" privileges, and they use them to justify what they believe, say or do. It is a demonic delusion because it only perpetuates the pain and denies the freedom or forgiveness that God offers.
Pain should serve to teach and mature us, not box us into the darkness. Hebrews 2:10 says Christ learned by the things He suffered—His pain was His teacher. Likewise, our painful experiences can teach us the contrasts between this human life and the glorious life for which God is preparing us.
However, a mind that feels pain speaks pain, and, if left unchecked, will eventually drive others away. Sharing a painful experience with a confidant is empowering and emotionally bonding, but continually sharing it with anyone who will listen deludes us into thinking that it is good for us when it is actually a kind of psychosis. Preoccupation with personal pain denies the fruit of the Spirit. It brings no peace or joy or love, etc.
Proverbs 23:7 teaches, "For as [one] thinks in his heart, so is he." It is easy to become caught up in life's painful experiences, and some of us have enough of them to fill novels. Yet Paul instructs the Philippians not to dwell on themselves so much: "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). At times, the best way to put aside pain is to care for the needs of someone else. Positive and outgoing communication provides plenty of time to talk about painful experiences, but it does not allow them to become a way of life. When someone asks, we can feel free to express some of the painful events of our lives, but we should show interest and concern for the other's experiences and provide encouragement as needed.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
Taken together, James 4:5-6, Proverbs 23:6-7, and Romans 12:3 indicate that what a person thinks of himself is clearly important to God. We all have an image of ourselves that we carry about in our heart. We tend to think of ourselves in a certain way, a persona that we want to project to others. This is not wrong of and by itself. Because we love God, we should greatly desire to project to others an image of Him that is pleasing to Him. What is wrong, though, is that too often the image we project has its basis in some area of pride.
Most of us do not really understand exactly what image we project to others. In other words, we often do not succeed in projecting the impression we want others to have of us. For instance, it is easy for a person to think he is projecting an image of one who is serious, quiet, and contemplative, when the reality is that others consider him to be stern and condemning. A wide divergence of conclusions about an individual is actually quite common. While those who know us may see the same person, they take away different impressions, which results in different assessments.
The image that we try to project is what we think we ought to project for someone in our position. As mentioned earlier, the problem in most of this image-projection is that it is driven by pride, and "God resists the proud."
Since so many commentators believe that pride is the father of all sins, it is surprising that "pride" appears only 49 times in Scripture and only three times in the New Testament. The Hebrew term ga'on in a good sense indicates "majesty" or "excellence." However, most of its usages are negative, as the antonym of "humility." It is associated with arrogance, insolence, evil behavior, and perverse speech.
The Greek word translated pride is tuphoo. Its literal meaning is "to envelop in smoke," but metaphorically, it indicates "conceit," "lifted up," and "high-mindedness." The word pictures a person using smoke as a screen to conceal the image he does not want the public to see.
Pride includes a degree of haughtiness, a measure of contempt for others. It is a matter of the heart that is buried under the surface. However, though the one who suffers from it may appear to walk in downcast humility, all the while in his heart he has vast contempt for God and fellow man, which is revealed in his lack of the fear of God and general, overall disobedience.
Why is God so against pride? A person infected by this deadly quality so admires himself that he is unaware of his paucity of vastly more important qualities. A proud person cherishes independence so that he will not be beholden to others. He is so preoccupied with his self-proclaimed goodness that he never realizes that he has any sin from which he needs to be saved, and thus he will not be corrected. He believes that he is above it all.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility
In one sense, what we are cannot be hidden. This proverb cautions a person to understand that people can be two-faced, playing the role of an actor or a hypocrite. The words that come out of the mouth may be far different from what the heart really means. The heart, however, cannot really be hidden; it will reveal its true intentions and feelings in time. It is good to understand this and thus protect ourselves.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Proverbs 23:7:
1 Corinthians 10:3-4