Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Christians often take this to mean that our emotions are dangerous and untrustworthy, so we have to focus on “the battlefield of the mind”. By living our lives according to the truth we know in our minds, we can keep our emotions from leading us astray.
But this is NOT what the Bible teaches. In modern America, when we talk about the “heart”, we’re usually referring to our emotions. But this is not how the Hebrews used the word in ancient times. The Hebrew word translated “heart” in Jeremiah 17:9 does not mean “emotions”. It means (according to blueletterbible.org) “inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding”. Elsewhere it is said to refer to “the place in which the process of self-consciousness is carried out, in which the soul is at home with itself, and is conscious of all its doing”. In fact, the same word is sometimes translated in the Bible as “mind”!
In other words, Jeremiah does not teach that our emotions are deceitful and beyond cure. According to Jeremiah (and the entire Bible) your mind is affected by the Fall just as much as the rest of you, including your emotions. We are just as likely to be led astray by our reason as we are by our emotions!!!
Let me write that in bold and all caps so you read it again:
WE ARE JUST AS LIKELY TO BE LED ASTRAY BY OUR REASON AS WE ARE BY OUR EMOTIONS!!!
Read it again. Please.
So: It is just as accurate to say, “You can’t trust your reason” or “You cannot live life by your reason” as it is to say “You cannot live life by your emotions”. Both of them are good and helpful. And both of them are susceptible to being led astray.
Though our culture is on the move towards Post-Modernism, we are still greatly influenced by the Modernistic thinking of the Enlightenment. What I mean is that we are preconditioned to rely on reason to the exclusion of other ways of knowing and living. The same dudes who spent the 18th and 19th centuries debunking faith as silly and outdated are the ones responsible for teaching us that our reason is morally superior to our emotions. Those guys had some really good ideas. But maybe we shouldn’t trust them entirely. I’m just sayin’…
I don’t say this to insult anybody who thinks or has thought these things about reason and emotions. I think those beliefs stem from an honest desire to find a simple and surefire way of living life well. It would certainly be easier if all we had to do to live life well was develop our powers of reason and acquire knowledge. If we could just relegate emotions to a secondary role and expect them to fall in line of their own accord as we focus on the facts, that would be really nice.
But God, as he tends to do, calls us to something greater. We do have to learn how to wield our powers of reason responsibly. And at the same time, we have to become expert feelers, learning how to wield the mysterious power of our emotions as an equally important part of who we are. Just as we are rational creatures, we are also emotional creatures.
In fact, this change in thinking has the potential to completely alter your view of yourself, and your approach to living your life.
Exciting, huh? I’ll show you how, next time.