If it’s happened once, it’s happened a thousand times to me. I do something, something (dare I say) good for someone else, and then in retrospect find that I didn’t really do that thing for them, but for myself. It was so that others would see me doing it. It was to garner praise from the person I was helping. It was to impressively display my aptitude or compassion for another. It happens all the time. And every time it happens, I’m reminded of something that’s as true as it is disturbing:
I cannot trust my own heart.
I, like you probably are, am a master at self-deception. I can trick myself into thinking the best of myself in virtually any situation. I kind of think think the prophet was onto something when he said, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:6).
Because the heart is deceitful, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to diagnose what’s really, truly happening inside you. That’s why David had to pray and ask the Lord to do it for him: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24).
While we might not be able to truly see what’s inside of us, at least not in its fullness, what we do have today are some signposts that guide our way. Much different than looking into the abyss of our motives and innermost thoughts, these are two practical measures God tells us will point us to the condition of that which is unknowable. And thankfully, they’re as simple as the heart is complex:
1. Your money.
If you want to know where your heart is, just follow your money. We might make grand claims about our love and allegiance, and we might even believe these things ourselves. But the bank account don’t lie. The way we spend our money is an objective test of where our heart is:
“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
2. Your speech.
A friend recently told me that what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket. When we find ourselves spouting off in anger or gossip or slander it’s not because we were just caught up in the moment; it’s because that’s what down in our hearts. We are only showing off what’s been down in there the whole time:
“How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil” (Matthew 12:34-35).
Today, if you want to do a little introspection, then don’t start with the heart; it might just be lying to you. Start with the tongue. Continue with the wallet. Then move onto the gospel where we will find the only true power to not change our words or our spending habits, but the heart that is behind them both.