This important organ of the body pumps the blood (in which is the soul or life) to nourish the body cells.—Lev. 17:14.
All emotions affect the heart. An editorial in Health magazine of February 1966 stated: “Diseased thinking, diseased feelings (emotions), and diseased wills can contribute actively to the development of cardiac disorders.”—Page 3.
However, not only do all emotions affect the heart, but there is also evidence that the heart, in turn, affects the emotions. That the heart plays a role in forming the personality of its owner is also indicated by certain medical views. The book Emotions and Bodily Changes, by Flanders Dunbar (Columbia University Press, 1954), page 332, reports: “[Ludwig] Braun says in effect: Anxiety is an inner tactile sensation bound up with a special end apparatus, located in the cardiac tissue, which is well supplied with sensory nerve endings. . . .
“W. H. von Wyss, in a very interesting article, tends to consider the heart the organ of expression not only for anxiety, but for all affects [feelings or emotions]. He says:
“‘Psychic processes, especially emotions, have a bodily resonance and, vice versa, bodily processes have a psychic resonance. . . . Since circulation is that function the cessation of which means instantaneous termination of life, the heart has become one of the most important organs of inner expression. It is for this reason that the heart has such close relationships with the emotional life and has become the symbol of what is really individual in man, the symbol of his virtues and vices. It is the study of these relationships which brings us to the borderland of our knowledge, to the question of what in the last analysis binds psyche and soma [body] into a unity.’”
Noteworthy, also, is the report by psychiatrist Dr. Donald T. Lunde in 1969 that a significant percentage of persons receiving heart transplants have become psychotic soon after surgery, while a number of others have exhibited at least temporary emotional disturbances.
THE HEART’S SIGNIFICANCE
In the Bible “heart” is the designation for the seat of affection and motivation. (Ps. 119:11) That the “heart” is what motivates the mind and course of action is illustrated in the report concerning the preparation for and construction of the tent of meeting in the wilderness. “Everyone whose heart impelled him,” all “whose hearts incited them,” contributed materials, skill and labor. (Ex. 35:21, 26, 29) God’s spirit acted on the hearts of Bezalel and Oholiab to teach, and to do the fine work required.—Ex. 35:30-35.
Because of its motivating force the heart focuses attention on what the person really is inside, so that the apostle Peter could speak of the “secret person of the heart.” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4) In Bible usage, the “heart” is considered separate and distinct from the “mind,” associated with the brain, although allowing for close interrelation, interplay and interdependency between them. The mind, as the term is applied in English usage, is the intellect or the information-gathering and knowledge center. It thinks and reasons on information and reaches conclusions. However, the heart greatly affects the individual’s actions, at times overruling the judgment or conclusions of the mind. The mind may, from experience and study, have information tending overwhelmingly to direct it to a particular conclusion. It may even have the logic and reasoning that point all one way, recommending a certain course. But if the heart has no desire to pursue that course and steadfastly refuses to do so, the individual will make a decision contrary to what the mind offers. By thus selecting between optional courses and fixing on one of them, the heart of man is said to ‘make plans,’ ‘thinking out his way.’ (Prov. 16:9; 19:21) This is particularly the case in moral or spiritual matters. The mature, Scripturally trained heart and mind will be at unity, not divided in devotion. (Mark 12:29-33) The Scriptures reveal this aspect of the heart’s importance, as will be seen in the following consideration.
INCLINATION OF THE HEART OF IMPERFECT HUMANS
Adam, although endowed with a good heart, and with a mind capable of perfect reasoning, let his heart be enticed (Job 31:27; Jas. 1:14, 15), rejected the truth and turned away from God. Consequently, all humans, the offspring of fallen Adam, have been conceived in sin and brought forth with error. (Ps. 51:5) Before the Flood men in general had hearts inclined only to bad; they had no desire to listen to Noah the “preacher of righteousness.” (Gen. 6:5; 2 Pet. 2:5) After the Flood, God said: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Gen. 8:21; compare Proverbs 22:15.) The Israelites in the wilderness followed this bad inclination, for they kept ‘going astray in their hearts.’—Heb. 3:7-10.
The heart can be treacherous
God’s estimation of hearts is right. He told the rebellious nation of Judah: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” Then, in answer, he said: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, . . . even to give to each one according to his ways.”—Jer. 17:9, 10.
God’s statement about the heart’s treachery, quoted in the foregoing paragraph, constitutes a serious warning for those seeking to please God. One may have been a Christian for many years, have a fine knowledge of the Bible, and feel confident that he can safely handle any situation that may arise. Yet, although he knows full well in his mind that an act is wrong and specifically condemned by God’s law, his heart may be enticed. (Jas. 1:14, 15) He may enter into sinful action, his heart even inventing justifications at the very time he is sinning. He may presume on God’s loving-kindness, saying, ‘God is very merciful and will forgive me on account of my fleshly weakness,’ at the same time continuing his wrong course. He is like the wicked one who “has said in his heart: ‘God has forgotten. He has concealed his face. He will certainly never see it.’”—Ps. 10:11; Heb. 4:12, 13.
An example of treacherous action by the heart is that of a person drawn into fornication by unwise, unguarded association with one of the opposite sex. He is “in want of heart.” (Prov. 6:32) Afterward his conscience may bother him and, when he is away from the enticement of the moment, his mind may convince him of the wrongness of his act. He may then be ‘cut to the heart’ and be truly repentant. On the other hand, the person may display an appearance of repentance due to the indefensibleness of his position, but his heart may not be reached, so that he does not truly repent and, given the same circumstances, he would repeat the sin. The Pharisees appeared righteous, but their hearts were far from God. (Matt. 3:7-10; 15:8) They were defiled at heart.—Matt. 15:18-20; 23:27, 28.
For these reasons a Christian, though he knows the truth and may consider himself perfectly safe, must remember the treachery that his heart can play, and must therefore exercise great care not to place himself in the way of temptation. The apostle Paul cites the example of the Israelites’ sins, among them being gross fornication in connection with the Baal of Peor, and then says: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” Jesus tells us to pray: “Do not bring us into temptation.” (1 Cor. 10:8-12; Matt. 6:13) And the wise writer of Proverbs says: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”—Prov. 28:26.
GOD’S TRUTH MUST BE CULTIVATED IN THE HEART
Jesus Christ, in his illustration of the sower, pointed out that the seed of truth of God’s Word is directed, not merely at the mind, but primarily at the heart. Whether such seed produces fruit or not depends on what the individual does as to resisting adverse circumstances surrounding him. While knowing the Word of God in his mind, he may let a test, such as opposition, or anxieties and pleasures, snuff out or crowd out the growth of the seed in his heart. (Luke 8:5-15) How the heart is guarded is thus shown to be the determining factor, because the “sources of life” are linked, not primarily with the human mind, but with the heart.—Prov. 4:23.
CHANGING THE HEART
God’s Word can discern “thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Hence, with Scriptural discipline and God’s help the heart can be changed. (Prov. 2:1-5; 1 Sam. 10:9; compare Malachi 4:6.) God can give a willing person a good heart, one that is pure, obedient, wise and understanding, with “broadness of heart.” (Ps. 51:10; 1 Ki. 3:9, 12; 4:29) The heart of a Christian minister also ‘widens out’ progressively in its interests, to include in its affections all who serve God, and even to love those who are not yet His servants.—2 Cor. 6:11-13; Matt. 5:43-48.
THE DEVIATING HEART
By giving improper motivation, the heart can scheme wrong things and can produce erroneous or wicked reasonings. (Ps. 140:1, 2; Prov. 6:18; Zech. 7:10; Matt. 5:28; Mark 2:6-8) In this way one may be “crooked at heart.” (Prov. 17:20) The mind or the intellect may try to hide such crookedness, but the heart, if not corrected and strengthened, will manifest itself so that the wicked imaginations come out in bad speech and conduct, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45; Matt. 15:18, 19) A person continuing in such course can become wicked in heart, disposed to fight former true friends and associates, as Judas Iscariot did after opening his heart to the influence of the Devil. This assures the destruction of such person in due time.—Job 36:13, 14; compare Psalm 55:20, 21; John 13:2; Heb. 3:12.
Adam’s course forcefully illustrates the deviating heart, turning away from good to bad. To avoid having such a heart, a servant of God must continually cultivate love in the heart by means of God’s Word and spirit. Thus, getting God’s law into one’s mind is essential but is not enough. However well the person may know God’s Word in his mind, it must also be written in his heart if it is to become his sure guide and he is to enjoy spiritual stability. If he is to be “made new in the force actuating [his] mind,” his heart must love God’s law and permit the holy spirit to operate freely to accomplish a making new of his entire personality.—Ps. 37:31; Prov. 3:1-4; Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:10.
Solomon is another example of the turning of a good heart to bad. (1 Ki. 11:3, 4) One can let his heart be allured by the desire of the eyes (Job 31:7) or the desire of the flesh (Job 31:9) or the showy display of one’s means of life. (1 John 2:16) The way Eve’s heart was enticed illustrates this. (Gen. 3:4-6) A person can appear good outwardly, but if his heart is secretly enticed so that he does wrong, he is condemned. (Job 31:26-28) The wrong act proceeds from the “secret person of the heart.”—1 Pet. 3:4.
Persisting in wrongdoing or continued stubbornness of heart hardens the heart or causes it to become “like fat,” without sense of feeling, to its owner’s calamity. (Deut. 29:19, 20; Prov. 28:14; Heb. 3:15; Ps. 119:69, 70; compare 1 Timothy 4:1, 2.) God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was set against Him so that God’s dealings with the Egyptian ruler would only make his heart obstinate, with the result that Pharaoh’s unbending attitude would be clearly revealed to all persons. (Ex. 4:21) Christians are warned to beware “for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.”—Heb. 3:12.
“WANT OF HEART”
A person who fails to guard his inward feelings and motivations is “in want of heart,” that is, in want of good motive, lacking appreciation and a right sense of values. (Prov. 9:1-6) For want of heart he pursues valueless things. (Prov. 12:11) This lack of proper motivation will manifest itself in some bad way, as the one in want of heart is easy prey to temptation. (Prov. 7:6-13, 21-23; 9:13-18) He may despise his fellowman (Prov. 11:12); he may be lazy. (Prov. 24:30, 31) And, regardless of his attempts at self-justification, the one committing adultery is “in want of heart,” that is, he has no good motive at all. (Prov. 6:32) “The rod is for the back of one in want of heart,” say the Scriptures, and “for want of heart the foolish themselves keep dying.”—Prov. 10:13, 21.
PURPOSING AN EVIL DEED IN THE HEART
Ananias and Sapphira, members of the Jerusalem congregation, hypocritically claimed before the apostles that they were devoting the entire price gained from the sale of a field to God’s service. They did it for a showy display of their generosity and charity, to get honor from men. For this they died. The serious judgment for their sin was because it was no mere mistake or temporary surrender to a fleshly weakness. As Peter plainly told Ananias, this was a deed he purposed in his heart, to lie to God. Satan, Peter said, “emboldened you” (literally, “filled your heart”) to play false to the holy spirit, the force of God which should have operated in Ananias for righteousness. (Acts 5:3, 4; Phil. 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:7, 8) Sapphira knew about her husband’s deed but upheld him in the falsehood. Consequently, both had bad hearts and justly had executed upon them adverse judgment of Jehovah, who sees the heart. Peter merely voiced that divine judgment.—Acts 5:1-10.
A HUMBLE HEART
Since Jehovah “sees what the heart is,” he can accurately judge persons as to their worthiness or unworthiness of his favor or of life. (1 Sam, 16:7; Prov. 24:12) He is near those whose hearts are humble, “broken,” not proud. (Ps. 34:18; 51:17; Prov. 16:5; 21:4) God hears the prayers of such humble ones. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God inaudibly, “speaking in her heart,” and was heard by Jehovah. (1 Sam. 1:12, 13) On the other hand, the scribes and Pharisees, who honored God with their lips, but with heart far removed from him, were rejected; in fact, Jesus asked them: “How are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (Matt. 15:7-9; 23:33) One may profess repentance, but to be truly repentant he must be like David, who received God’s mercy because, after he had done wrong, “David’s heart began to beat him.”—in sincere, thorough repentance.—2 Sam. 24:10; compare 1 Samuel 24:5; Acts 2:37; Luke 18:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11.
THE COMPLETE OR UNIFIED HEART
An individual can have a complete heart toward a certain course of action or toward God. (1 Ki. 8:61; 15:3, 14; 1 Chron. 28:9; 29:9; 2 Chron. 25:2) Or, he may be doublehearted, trying to serve two masters, or deceptively saying one thing while thinking something else. (1 Chron. 12:33; Ps. 12:2) Jesus said that such a heart condition would result in sticking to one master and despising the other, for “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He emphasized the need, therefore, to store up treasures in heaven. To do this, the individual must feed the heart properly by having the mind “fixed on the things above,” on spiritual, not material things. (Matt. 6:19-21, 24; Col. 3:2; Phil. 4:8) David petitioned Jehovah: “Unify my heart to fear your name,” which suggests that the heart could be divided with regard to its affections and fears. (Ps. 86:11) Those in responsible positions should be especially careful, for “a gift can destroy the heart,” that is, it can ruin one’s right motive, causing him to be doublehearted, and even influenced to do wrong toward God and man.—Eccl. 7:7.
OPERATION OF GOD’S WORD AND SPIRIT ON THE HEART
Jeremiah the prophet, in discouragement, made the mental decision not to speak in Jehovah’s name anymore, but, he admitted: “In my heart [Jehovah’s Word] proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in, and I was unable to endure it.” (Jer. 20:9) It is the operation of the Word and spirit of God in the hearts of Christians that motivates them to preach the good news and to endure persecution. (Rom. 5:3-5; 10:8-10; 2 Thess. 3:5) Christians have a deep love in their hearts for those to whom they minister; in fact, the taught ones are likened to a letter, ‘inscribed on [the ministers’] hearts.’ The taught ones themselves are letters of recommendation for the minister, and can be read by observers. Such ‘letters of Christ’ are inscribed by means of God’s holy spirit on fleshly tablets, or hearts. The effect of God’s spirit on the heart produces a new Christian personality, which can be read by all observers.—2 Cor. 3:1-3.
THE CIRCUMCISED HEART
Jehovah showed from the beginning of his dealing with the nation of Israel that fleshly circumcision was not the thing he desired primarily; he repeatedly appealed to the Israelites to ‘circumcise their hearts’—to give him full devotion from the heart. Literal circumcision was only an outward sign of the righteousness they should practice in the heart. (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Lev. 26:41; Acts 7:51; Rom. 4:11, 12) In this same tenor, Jesus stated that the greatest commandment in the Law was to love Jehovah God with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength. (Matt. 22:37, 38; Mark 12:28-30; Deut. 6:5) Accordingly, Jehovah foretold that he would conclude with his people a new covenant, under which he would ‘write his law in their hearts.’ (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:10) He would remove the former stony hardness and give them a “heart of flesh.”—Ezek. 11:19, 20; compare Mark 10:5.
Consequently, Paul the apostle writes to fellow Christians under the new covenant and says: “Let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled from a wicked consciences.” (Heb. 10:22) By Jehovah’s undeserved kindness through Christ’s sacrifice, which can really take away sins, Christians have ‘circumcision that is of the heart by spirit.’ (Rom. 2:28, 29) By reason of this true heart devotion to Jehovah and love for his law they are identified as Jehovah’s servants; they are sealed, having his spirit in their hearts. (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 14) His light shines on their hearts, illuminating them with the knowledge of God; their hearts are not ‘veiled’ through lack of faith, as in the case of the unfaithful Israelites. (2 Cor. 3:15; 4:6) Their hearts are clean, fully for Jehovah, their love being put into actual practice. Through Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, they thereby have assurance, their hearts not condemning them. They have freeness of speech to approach God and he answers their prayers.—1 John 3:19-22.
‘EYES OF THE HEART’
Jehovah enlightens the ‘eyes of the heart [Gr., kar·diʹas]’ of his servants to the hope ahead. (Eph. 1:18) Thereby they see the hope in its full breadth and depth and love it (Eph. 3:16-19); they are motivated to act to achieve that hope. This is more than a mere mental knowledge or perception such as evidently is spoken of at Revelation 1:7: “Every eye will see him, . . . and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him.” These latter persons see mentally, but not with the heart. The world in general, including God’s active enemies, are forced by circumstances to see or understand with their mental powers that Christ is ruling in judgment, but their hearts are not favorably affected by what their minds “see.” (Ps. 119:7) The Jews to whom Jesus preached had God’s Word and could read it, but they heard with annoyance, shutting figurative “eyes” and “ears” so that their “hearts” could not get the sense of what Christ said. (Matt. 13:13-15; Isa. 6:9, 10; compare Isaiah 44:18-20.) For this reason Jesus told them that the pagans of Nineveh would be raised up in judgment and would condemn them.—Matt. 12:41.
OTHER FIGURATIVE REPRESENTATIONS
Literally hundreds of times the Bible uses other figurative expressions with regard to the heart. It can be steadfast, that is, unshakable, reliant on Jehovah, courageous (Ps. 57:7; 108:1; 112:7, 8), “anxious” or ‘bowed down’ with anxious care (Isa. 35:4; Prov. 12:25), “sick” from expectation postponed (Prov. 13:12), “feeble” from sinfulness (Isa. 1:4, 5), “pierced” by affliction (Ps. 109:22), “melted” by fear of distresses (Deut. 20:8; Josh. 14:8; Ps. 22:14), “set” to do bad (Eccl. 8:11), “joyful,” or having pain. (Prov. 15:13; Isa. 65:14) It can ‘burn’ from hearing good things. (Luke 24:32) God’s servants should ‘give him their heart,’ their undivided attention.—Prov. 23:26.
A HEART-COMFORTING PROMISE
God promised that he would bring about “new heavens” and a “new earth,” and said that the former things would not ‘come up into the heart,’ to cause distress, hurt or sorrow. (Isa. 65:17-19) These things will not be recalled to mind and heart in such a way as to cause concern. But this is not to say that one will forget his past history and his identity. And certainly the things that have taken place in settling the great issue as to the rightness and righteousness of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty will stand as a monument, being remembered to Jehovah’s vindication forever.—Ps. 83:18; Isa. 66:22-24.
God reveals that he has affections and emotions, the Bible describing him as having a “heart.” He is grieved by man’s sinfulness; at the time of the Flood “he felt hurt at his heart,” regretting that men had rejected his righteous rule, making it necessary for God to turn from being their benefactor to become their destroyer. (Gen. 6:6) By contrast, God’s heart ‘rejoices’ when his servant is faithful. (Prov. 27:11) Jehovah will carry out “the ideas of his heart.” (Jer. 30:24) Such a thing as the cruel offering up of humans as burnt sacrifices, practiced by some of the deviating Israelites, never had come up into his heart, showing him to be no God of eternal torment.—Jer. 7:31; 19:5.
CENTER OF A THING
The heart being a central organ of the body, the term “heart” is applied to the center or depth of something, such as the “heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40) and the “heart of the sea.”—Ex. 15:8; Jonah 2:3.
The symbolic use of “heart” figures in a prophetic way at Daniel 7:4, where the lionlike beast representing the kingdom of Babylon was made to stand on two feet and was given “the heart of a man,” that is, it no longer possessed the courageous “heart of the lion.” (2 Sam. 17:10) It was then defeated by the symbolic “bear,” Medo-Persia.—Dan. 7:5; see BEASTS, SYMBOLIC; MIND.