I have been studying the words of the Jewish “Shema” lately. In part, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 commands us to “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Jesus was a good Jewish boy and would have recited this prayer at least twice a day. So, when He was asked what the greatest commandment was, He quoted this verse and added Lev. 19:18 (“and love your neighbor as yourself”).
It is an extremely important portion of scripture that to a large extent hinges on the term “heart.” And that term is a difficult one to pin down in the scriptures.
When referring to the “heart,” there are a number of Old Testament terms that are used. Terms like “inner parts,” our bones, our bowels and even our liver are all synonymous with our heart. Sometimes we also translate that concept with terms like “conscience,” “mind,” and “soul.”
Western thinkers divide the heart and the brain. We see the brain as the vessel used for thinking and the heart as the seat of our emotions. But the Hebrew mind did not see it that way. The heart was the very center of all things.
It includes our passions, our appetites, our personality and our conscience. The mental process of thinking is centered in the heart. All our emotions find their origin in the heart. And it is our heart that affects our will and helps us make choices.
So, at the end of his life when Moses was reiterating the Law to the Israelites who would soon enter the Promised Land, he wanted to make sure they understood that they were to love the Lord with all their heart.
Loving the Lord with all our heart is a challenge. And we need all the help we can get to keep our hearts focused on Him. Our passions and priorities need to be evaluated on a regular basis.
For this week, I thought of an easy way to check on our priorities. Let’s take out our phone, look up our calendars and bank statements, and take some notes.
What did we spend our time doing? Add up the hours, do some simple percentages. What kind of events got the largest percentage of our time? Now let’s do the same thing with our bank statement. What did we spend our money on? What percentage went for entertainment, or fun food out or other “stuff?”
Ouch. This may be tough, but necessary. Remember, Solomon told us in Prov. 4:23 to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”