In our world today we hear many people say and believe the mantra of “Follow your heart.” You hear this even from Christians. An example of the world telling us to follow our hearts comes from the former founder of Apple, Steve Jobs; there are two famous quotes from him about “follow your heart” that appear as memes from time to time on social media:
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Both originated from a commencement speech he gave at Standford in 2005. “Follow your heart,” Steve Jobs says, since you know “you are going to die.” “Follow your heart,” Steve Job says, since “Everything else is secondary.” Many people believe the same thing as Jobs does. But how does this popular mantra stand up to the Bible’s teaching about the heart?
- The Bible actually speaks negatively about “follow your own heart.” Take for instance Numbers 15:39: ” It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot.” Catch how it says “not follow after your own heart.” Proverbs 28:26 also says “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.“
- The question that follows is what is it about the human heart that God would prohibit “following one’s own heart?”
- Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” The human heart is depraved and sinful.
- Proverbs 22:15 also tells us “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” We see a second reason is that the sinful heart is naturally full of foolishness. Apparently this verse teaches this foolishness began even early on during childhood.
- Some atheists try to make the question of whether to follow one’s own heart into an alleged Bible contradiction. They quote only parts of Ecclesiastes 11:9 that says “And follow the [a]impulses of your heart and the [b]desires of your eyes.” But the rest of the verse definitely limits that when it says “Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.” We’re not to follow our hearts freely in light of the consideration that God does judge sins.
- Steve Jobs thinks following one’s heart is first and “Everything else is secondary.” But Ecclesiastes 11:9 shows how foolish that is when we “know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.” There’s something beyond death that should curb people from fully following their hearts.
- Following one’s heart is the gospel of human autonomy; it is a religion of self, that presupposes man is the standard of truth and not God. This is a faith in self where even God’s rule is subject to the court of human opinion. Ironically with Steve Job’s Apple logo it parallel the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
- The Biblical worldview is not against the human heart per se; it is against trusting and following one’s own heart as the ultimate guide or source of wisdom. Instead the Biblical worldview is to turn one’s heart to trust in God as one’s ultimate guide and source of wisdom: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Of course the sinful heart in of itself will not submit to trusting in God even though it knows it must do so. This is bad news. But here’s the Good News! God promised in Ezekiel 36:26 to give believers a new heart that would respond to God: “ Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). That work is the work of the Spirit who makes us born again (John 6:6 in light of Titus 3:5). The Spirit does this work in light of the Father’s election and then with a regenerate heart that the Spirit gives, the regenerate heart trusts in the justifying works of the Son on the cross who died for our sins. The responsibility on man’s part is to repent and trust in the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone!