He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
You are your own worst enemy. You have inside you a voice that is dearer than the voice of God or any angel or man. This voice can comfort and convince you against any teaching or warning. This voice is with you twenty-four hours a day, and it always tells you what you want to hear and believe. It helps you make most decisions. You are a fool!
Your heart has a strong opinion on most any topic, whether you know anything about that topic or not. Your heart reacts in an instant against criticism or reproofs, and it controls you with passionate desire for something it wants. Your heart can lull you to sleep about matters it says are unimportant, and it can keep you from sleeping out of envy or hate.
Solomon used heart in this proverb as a metonym for your affections, inclinations, and thoughts. It is your internal set of desires and needs that affects your decision-making. This is not your conscience. This is your anti-conscience! This is the set of passions that drives most men and women. God has spoken about your heart. He said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).
If you listen to your heart, you are a fool! If you follow your heart, you are a fool! If you make decisions even partially influenced by your heart, you are a fool! You are submitting to the most deceitful, depraved, and dangerous source of information on earth. Your heart has gotten you into more trouble in the past than all your enemies combined. You are your own worst enemy. Wisdom is the power to choose truth against your heart.
Adam died in the Garden of Eden the day he ate the forbidden fruit, according to God’s promise and warning (Gen 2:17; 3:6-8). Since he physically died 930 years later, what happened to him the day he took the fruit from Eve and ate it (Gen 5:5)? What died? Not his intellect! He was as intelligent after sin as before sin. Not his power of observation! He could perceive naturally as well after sin as before sin. He was still mentally sane.
His affections for God and spiritual truth and wisdom died. He became morally corrupt without any sincere desire to seek God, please God, or obey God. Rather than beg for forgiveness, he made an apron of fig leaves. Rather than repent, he hid in the garden. Rather than confess his sin, he blamed God and Eve for the mess. He was now motivated by selfish impulses that were dead toward God and others (Ps 14:1-3; Rom 3:9-18).
Adam became totally depraved, as theologians call it. Though his brain still functioned intelligently with logical connections based on observations and perceived consequences, his affections and desires were totally different – they were anti-God, anti-truth, anti-wisdom. He hated God and godliness; he loved all the sinful lusts of body and mind now in him. He was now an eager follower of the devil – spiritually dead in sins (Eph 2:1-3).
You were conceived and born this way – dead in sins, hating God, loving the world, obeying the devil, and fulfilling lusts in every choice. This is the reality of humanity. This is the truth about all men and women, boys and girls. Without a second birth, one by the Holy Spirit of God, all persons remain in this state of spiritual death and enmity against God. You must be regenerated by God with a new spiritual life to desire godliness.
Any doctrine of salvation must deal with this fact. Evangelism must deal with this fact. There are no means to influence a person in this dead condition (John 8:43-47; Rom 8:7-8; I Cor 2:14; Luke 16:31). He or she must be given life first; they must be born again first; they must be regenerated before they can or will believe (John 1:13; 3:8; 5:24; 6:44,63; 17:3; Acts 16:14; I Cor 1:18,22-24). Any other doctrine of salvation is false.
Today it is totally acceptable to trust and follow your heart. In fact, you are taught that your heart can decide what is right for you. One man will leave a church and say, “I did not feel right in my heart there.” A man will leave his wife and children for a younger woman, saying, “My heart was not in my marriage any longer.” A man will quit his job and become a homeless loafer by saying, “I am going to follow my heart.” All are fools!
The primary method of teaching today, even at the university level, is to trust your heart. After the professor presents several contradictory views of capital punishment, he asks the bright-eyed little students, “What do you think?” This is not teaching! This is corrupting youth by flattering the idiocy and pride of their hearts. This is conditioning them to think that their opinions are worth considering. This leads to hating anyone that criticizes or opposes them, especially a Bible preacher without a PhD in humanities!
Teenagers defy parents because their wicked hearts tell them they are right and their parents are wrong. Adulterers pursue other lovers because their profane hearts tell them they deserve it and no one will be hurt. The self-righteous leave a church because their hearts tell them their pastor had no right to criticize them like that. Pornography addicts justify another look based on their hearts excusing such an innocent thing.
Where does following your heart lead? To destruction, which is understood here by comparison to the parallel clause. Fools will be hurt and punished, for their decisions are based on the feelings, lusts, and arrogance of their own hearts. What felt so good in the beginning becomes painfully destructive in the end (Pr 14:12; 16:2,25; 21:2; Ps 36:2). But the wise man, who follows God’s wisdom rather than his heart’s lies, will be saved.
True wisdom is learning to mistrust your heart, reject its voice, and make all decisions on the basis of absolute and objective truth. Where is the source for such fabulous decision-making? In the inspired words of the living God recorded in the Bible. It is by learning God’s words and training yourself to make decisions based on them that you can be wise and saved from the deceitful impulses of your depraved heart (Ps 19:7; 119:130).
After the absolute source of truth and wisdom of God’s inspired words in the Bible, you then should use a multitude of counselors to also help protect you from your own heart and opinions (Pr 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). The only counselors that honestly fulfill this rule of wisdom are successful men known for decisive thinking and are strong communicators. There is no profit going to friends for advice that are likely to agree with your ideas.
The purpose for ministers is to make war against your heart. They are to cast down all your imaginations and thoughts and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Jesus Christ (II Cor 10:4-6). You do not have a right to your thoughts; you have a responsibility to right thoughts! But most contemporary Christians are obsessed with their hearts and thoughts. They measure any solution by how well it matches up with their hearts. Fools!
How wise are you, reader? Ready for a test? Whom do you have a grudge against? Is it right in the light of God’s word? If not, what will you do about it? If you are a Christian woman, do you always dress in modest apparel with discreet accessories and conservative makeup? If not, what will you do about it? The degree of your wisdom is the degree to which you can crush your heart to submit to the words of God in the Bible.
If you learn to walk wisely by the directions of God’s commandments, He will deliver you from all the pitfalls and obstacles that clobber and confuse your heart-following neighbors. If you will trust Him and not lean toward your own understanding, He will direct your paths in good ways. Your future happiness, prosperity, and success depend on your efforts to hate your vain thoughts and love the truth of His words (Ps 119:113,128).