Our American Misunderstanding Concerning the Biblical Word: “Heart”



But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”  (1 Peter 3:15)



Heart & Mind ~ The word “heart,” as it is used in the Bible, does not mean the same as the English word heart. Both in the Hebrew (leb ~ H3820, lebab ~ H3824, and labab ~ H3823, and  other derivatives it is used over 860 times), and Greek (kardia ~ G2588, is used over 170 times)  languages, the word “heart” is specific & refers to the complete inner man, and never solely concerning the emotions, as it does in the English understanding of the word.

The word first & most primarily refers to the

1) Mind; next the
2) Emotions; and lastly the
3)Seat of the Will,” discretion, where choices are made between what the mind thinks and the emotions desire.

It is unbiblical to treat the word heart to be synonymous with emotions, as the word is used primarily of the rational thinking mind which is what we serve God with. To allow emotions to primarily make decisions is unbiblical and leaves an individual to soulish folly. Decisions and direction are always to be determined with a rational mind where discretion, according to God’s Word and Will are in control. To allow the emotions, which are primarily controlled by the sinful fallen nature of man, to control us is against all Biblical admonition. This is why we are told to have the “mind of Christ,” with the Holy Spirit making sure that there is no ambiguity concerning the place of rational thought in the life of the believer.

This is not to say that the emotions are to be completely set aside, it is the emotions that bring joy to life, and greater meaning when used and felt correctly. Otherwise, without emotions life would be dull and we would function more like robots that might men. It is with the emotions that worship and gratitude, as well as love and compassion many times flow. Yet, the emotions are not meant to create rationality. Emotions always functions as a response to something else, and never meant to be the activating event.

We feel emotions when others treat us certain ways or when we see certain things that activate an emotional response. A good example concerns love. When Christ demands that the believer love others, He is not demanding that they feel the emotional feeling of love, as many times those that we are to love do not do anything that would create the emotional feeling of love in response.

When Christ speaks of love, it is an activating event, an initiating event, not a response. It is a first cause; it is what we do as an action of sacrificially putting someone else first without the emotional feeling of love to necessitate it. To do acts of love is to choose to sacrificially put someone else before ourselves, which is plainly seen in such passages as 1 John 3:16, which states: 

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

This verse teaches us that the proof of God’s love is that He sacrificially put us first, which is also what He wants us to do for others, especially with other Christians (Galatians 6:10), as seen here. This is also seen in the verse that the whole world knows, John 3:16, which states:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…

We know according to Romans 5:8, 10; that Christ died for us when we were enemies of God, having no value worth the trade of God’s own Son.  God did not have an emotional feeling of love towards the world, which was corrupted and full of sin, rebellious against everything godly, never seeking God (Romans 3:11). The love that God initiated was not due to anything good or deserving within man, it was a choice to sacrificially give His own Son up for those that would never be worth it.  God’s love is a display of His greatness, not of our worthiness.  It was not due to an emotional response to anything good within man. When Christ demands for us to love one another it is an activating / initiating event, an event of first cause that chooses to make another a priority over one’s own desire. Emotions are meant to be give joy and be the icing on the cake, but never to replace “The Meat of the Word” wherein the mind has control.


“The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast:
the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’.”

In regards to our Christian walk ~ The question becomes are we simply involved in church, involved in Christian groups, involved with Christ; or are we committed to studying God’s Word (not just reading it), committed to loving others (not emotional enjoyment – but sacrificially putting others first), and committed to making Jesus our Lord (Master) & God (by dying-to-self – keeping Him preeminent our lives); as well is our Savior. 

Upon strong reflection, I must regretfully confess; far too many times in my life I have been a chicken, rather than a pig concerning my Christian walk and dedication to Jesus Christ.  Something to think about

Taken from the endnotes of “Something to Think About” at:  www.FaithBibleMinistries.com


  1. Wow Brent, Egg-cellent post…and I might add very tall shoes to fill. You opened up a whole new avenue for me to explore. As humans we tend to be giving in some situations, and selfish in others. Its sometimes hard to seperate the two. Its also difficult to know when one is needed and the other is not. Hmmmmm……Seat of the Will…..thats a tough one for me. I am such an emotional driven woman. Right now I am dealing with an issue. One of family, heartbreaking. How does one keep the emotion out of that? How do you know when to descern the difference? Emotion isnt always about the joys in life…many times its about the sorrows. Especially when children are involved. I am learning what its like to put others first…I had always thought I was doing that, and to a large degree I did. Just not as God intended. Im slow….lol…..does blonde count?


  2. Nonni,
    Thank you very much for your gracious response. It is those words at the bottom of my post:

    “Upon strong reflection, I must regretfully confess; far too many times in my life I have been a chicken, rather than a pig concerning my Christian walk and dedication to Jesus Christ.”

    That reflects my own awareness of my shortcomings in this area. Believe me when I say that I feel so very lucky for the insights the Holy Spirit has shown me, and do endeavor to fulfill these mandates; yet, in all honesty I am the worst of all sinners. Sure I may not do some of those sins that I did in my youth, those ones that are so blatant that everybody can see. But it is the sins of the heart, those sins that are seen by too many other people; the callousness that can creep in and selfishness which is always right there; these are the things that trouble me so these days.

    It has been said that approaching God is like approaching a mountain range. As you’re walking through a desert, you suddenly for some unknown reason are made where of a beautiful mountain range, yet it is so far away and seemed so small. However, if you determine to approach that mountain range, as you get closer one of the realities of the walk, is that the mountain range becomes more and more massive, as you in response become smaller and smaller in contrast. And it is the closer that you get to the mountains wherein you become so small in reflection of their grandness – this is a simple way of looking at how it is as we grow in our relationship with Christ.

    Attempting to approach him, where he and in our later years we may not practice those overt sins, wine women and dance; yet it is those things which others might say or so small, yet our sensitivity grows and we understand how big they really are. It feels so mature to say this, and my ego takes flight at this type of bragging. But the real issue, is that by now in my Christian walk, after over 3 and a half decades; I’m still a terrible sinner, yet maybe not to men’s eyes, but definitely within my own heart.

    Now, in regards to your comment concerning being an emotional driven person. I am, and always have been what I refer to as emotional responder. I am flighty, apprehensive, fearful, and inconsistent. I talk too much, speak when I should listen, and always approach things from the emotions that overwhelm me. That is why this lesson concerning understanding the functions of the brain and the emotions was so vital for me to learn many years ago as I entered pastoral counseling, and CD counseling as well. I hate this aspect of myself, but I have learned this is who I am; therefore it is learning to fight these tendencies that attempt to overwhelm me; to turn to gods word concerning how I am to behave and even think, that ratifies why this lesson concerning thinking and feeling is so important.

    It is human for us to think with our hearts (emotions); and feel with our minds; especially if we have addictive personalities – which I do. This is why I must constantly do what Paul says when he says in 2 Cor. 10:5-7:

    “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.”

    It is this art, this discipline, this training in attempting to: “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” that is so difficult for us emotional responders, yet for that reason so imperative.

    And yes I agree 100 percent, most of the time in my life emotions have been on the negative side.

    One of the things that has been most amazing to me is that God usually calls people that have the opposite temperaments for what He has called them to do. Such as having an emotional responder become a teacher who is preoccupied with the development of utilizing his mind in making decisions rather than the emotions that have controlled him for majority of his life.

    I mean think about it, I’m an emotional responder, and while I enjoy teaching; for the last 4 and a half years I have been a chaplain and has witnessed over 500 deaths – one of the most emotional things you can be a part of. Why? For one, it shows God’s power, as well as his wisdom. His power in that he utilizes the opposite type of person that would be good at this type of ministry, and emotional driven person – yet it displays God’s wisdom and that every one of these deaths I’m personally involved with, on an emotional level. Paul stated to the Christians in Rome, concerning their obligations as Christians in society to:

    “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Rom 12:15)

    So according to Paul’s words here, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God; what is God’s type of response for a Christian chaplain who is attending the death of somebody in the hospital, someone who is emotional enough to shed a tear and experience empathy, yet trained enough to be able to speak on those rare occasions where there is an opportunity to use God’s Word.

    Believe it or not I don’t do much talking a lot of deaths, but there are many situations which, up where I have an opportunity to speak about Jesus Christ and what true biblical faith is – true biblical faith, at least the verse that I used to display that many times is Job 13:15.

    This is a place where Joe with and a few minutes has lost everything that he’s had, including his kids. This is bad for anyone to go through, but how much more of an emphasis is lost for a rich man who has an awful lot to lose. Job did, even to the extent that he lost his health. What we don’t realize is this lasted for a year. And we see him at the end of this time scraping off boils on his body, eating from a trash dump. And what is this man’s reply concerning God in his life. It is Job 13:15:

    Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
    (Job 13:15)

    What he’s saying here is that God is so trustworthy, that even if he takes the very last thing I have to; which at this point in Job’s life is only his breath; Job’s responses I will trust God. And when he states that he will maintain his own ways before God, what he is actually saying here is he’s get a live the way that he continued to live when he was rich, which is to trust God no matter what.

    So you see, while some people may see being emotional responder as a negative (which I have all my life); yet it makes me a perfect person for God to use to function and opposite direction, that of trusting him even whenever my emotional heart is fearful. And sister you have the same pleasure, the pleasure of trusting God whenever all H.E.L.L is breaking all around you. Believe me I don’t take these words lightly nor do I wish them for you either.

    Yet God knows what He’s doing, and everything, I mean everything; in your life is orchestrated by God. Nothing, can happen without him either allowing it to happen, or using it – your life is God filtered if you are a child of God. This is what biblical faith is all about, it’s hard stuff. This is why the “Word of Faith” movement that I have fought for so many years is so evil. They teach people to go after God to get things, to become manipulators and users. That we follow God because he gives us what we want. Yet God wants us to trust him even when nothing makes any sense, and it hurts.

    It is the same thing we want from our own children – this is why he made us in his image, so we would understand what he wants of us – faith. bb


  3. Indeed finding that place where differentiating between the 2 ( emotion and mind ) can be a task as emotionally tethered we tend to be, well me anyway. Now music has a way of causing an emotional response and in some of today’s music not such a good one either lol, great post Brent.


    1. Rockman,
      Great insight about music, this is why I always couple worship music with Col 3:16-17, which states:

      Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

      There is disagreement as to how verse 16 should be punctuated, because there was no punctuation in the original language of the NT, Greek.

      In the English the correct meaning of such a verse is largely determined by the punctuation that is used, wherein the words are parsed into sections, connecting certain thoughts, as diverse from other phrases.

      Therefore, the best reading of this verse in the English would assume the obvious presentation as it is without the English punctuation marks (which all English translations insert, as a requirement of English grammar) and would thus connect “in all wisdom” (which is a function of the mind), “teaching” (another function of the mind), “and admonishing” (also a function of the mind); with “Psalms,” “Hymns,” & “Spiritual Songs.

      We sing using our mind, speaking in words that abide according to God’s Word. We don’t do as the false religions do where they chant the same phrases over and over (which Jesus addresses and speaks against in Matt. 6:7, when referring about prayer – which can be connected with spiritual singing – see the Psalms, which a majority of time are actually prayers connected with music), and appear to obtain a hypnotic state.

      This can be seen in many concerts today. However, it is with our intellect that the Scripture tells us that we are to sing praises to our Lord, based upon our knowledge of Him and His Word we speak in intelligence when we glorify Him. This is because He earns the glorification with which we use our mind to recall and sing about. It is not that we glorify Him based upon no evidence which would be mandated by the lack of intelligence necessary in this type of repetitive hypnotic type of singing. We glorify Him because of what we “know,” because we have “knowledge.”

      Therefore, some of the current Christian concerts where the crowd repeats the same word for 30 minutes, swaying back and forth in an apparent hypnotic-like state (in which I am not doubting that they are worshiping emotionally, yet they’re not worshiping biblically); would be a violation of this verse as well as what Jesus said in Matthew 6:7. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is right and should be practiced.

      God has earned our praise, and it takes the ability to think and process information to put this into words and glorifying Him in music. Singing praises to our Lord is not about us, it is about Him.

      Yet, there is an emotional component that is very obvious to our praise and worship in song. It is the emotions that stir the mind, it is with the emotions that we emphasize in such great gratitude, and overwhelming praise for what God has done in the world, through His Son; and more specifically in our personal lives. It is with in the emotional release of praise that we personally receive the benefit of glorifying our King and Lord – wherein there is an emotional release, some would say of the anxiety and toxic stress that we live under, wherein by praising and singing to our Lord; tears flow, hands are uplifted, and emotions are displayed.

      You would not believe how many times I went into Orthodox church services, even where the word of God was being taught (not too deeply, but superficially); yet did not return because their worship service was dead – emotionless, and therefore gave me no opportunity to praise my God in the emotions that He gave me.

      It is just as wrong to attempt to downplay, or negate emotions in worship; as it is to negate or remove the function of the mind. This is why understanding the whole meaning of the word “heart,” as used in the Bible is so important. We are not a mindless robot, that functions without emotions; nor are we to be a emotional responders, controlled by our emotions, having our emotions override our intellect and make choices for us.

      We are a combination of both emotions (Eph. 5:19-20) and intellect (Psa. 119:11), this is what the word “heart” in both the Greek and Hebrew always – always means in the Bible.

      That is the emotions that are released and bring forth praise unto our Lord and King based upon what my mind knows about Him and His word, and His love, grace and mercy to me that causes me to sing with such passion.

      Again, great insight Rockman. bb (always putting in my 2 cents – a dollar at the time)


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