"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with brother will be liable to judgment… You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28, 33-34
Just when we think we’ve got all these rules figured out, here comes Jesus making everything complicated again. Like, seriously… can he just let us follow the rules and let the rest be? I mean… we’re trying our best, right? Why does he have to dig into the heart, too?
Cause Jesus has always been about the heart. He cares about what we do, but he cares way more about our heart, from where our actions flow. It seems like in every story, sermon, or speech Jesus gives it always ends up back at our hearts. One speech in particular Jesus was scolding the Pharisees (classic!) and he quotes Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Yikes. Make a list of rules that we have to follow as Catholics and it’s going to be a mile long. But what do our hearts look like while we follow these rules? What’s your innermost spirit look like?
The truth is I think we are much more focused with what’s on the outside than we are with what’s on the inside, probably because fellow humans judge us by looking at the outside. They judge by appearance. They judge your clothes, your car, your house, your family, your hair (not ready to talk about this one yet ;)), your food, your vocabulary, your personality. You name it, they’ll judge it. But with God, it’s a whooooole ‘nother story.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
Your deeds are intricately connected to your heart in God’s eyes. So, what if this week we stopped working so hard on the outside and spent some extra time on the inside? What if we made one change in our lives to beautify our hearts? Maybe you need to spend some time in self-reflection questioning your motives when you talk to other people or when you post on facebook. Maybe you need to confront those negative thoughts you have about a friend, family member or coworker and work on forgiveness and seeing them through the eyes of Jesus. Maybe you need to spend some time in prayer discerning what is taking first place in your heart – is it the desire to be loved? The desire to be successful? The desire to be impressive or make others jealous? The desire for material wealth? Or is it the Kingdom of God? The desire to serve the least of these? The desire to grow closer to your Creator?
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” In all honesty, for almost an entire year after I moved to San Diego I had this verse written in BIG letters before I walked out the door as a glaring reminder to check my heart before I interacted with anyone. It was a reminder I needed (and still need) daily and may be one you need, too. We’re all humans and we shouldn’t trick ourselves into believing that living in this world but not of this world is easy. It’s not. It’s a difficult position and if we’re not checking our hearts daily, we can easily go astray. But this incredibly taxing and demanding practice of self-reflection is not for naught. If your heart is what Jesus looks at, it’s really all that matters. Like the Book of Proverbs says, everything else will flow from it. This week we sing from the perspective of God, “Deep within I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart. Follow me, I will bring you back. You will be my own and I will be your God.” If you’ve been following all the rules but neglecting to check your innermost spirit, spend some time in self-reflection and hand over your heart to Him this week. Let him change you from the inside out. It may get messy, but I promise your heart will look a whole lot cleaner when he’s finished with you.