Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” In this passage of the Old Testament, we are told that the heart is deceitful above all things.
With messages in the world today such as “follow your heart,” it can be confusing to read that the Bible tells us our hearts are deceitful.
1. Don’t Follow Your Heart
The Bible tells us our hearts are evil. Our hearts are evil because of sin. Ever since sin entered the world through the Fall of Man, all human beings are evil. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Our hearts are deceitful because we are sinful. God created us good, yet we chose to sin and disobey God (Genesis 3). Ever since the Fall, our hearts have been polluted with sin. Apart from Christ, we cannot be made new and forgiven of our sins.
Since our hearts are deceitful, we cannot trust them nor follow them. Our hearts are prone to sin and disobey God. In Jeremiah 17:9, the passage tells us that the heart is not only deceitful above all things, but that it is also beyond a cure.
Our hearts cannot be made right apart from the saving grace of Jesus in our lives. We do not need to follow our hearts because they will lead us after sin nature. Our hearts lead us away from Christ rather than toward Him.
Our hearts will try to deceive us by making us believe what we want is our sinful nature when what we truly need is to obey God. We will be the happiest when we are walking in obedience to the Lord. In the immediate context of Jeremiah 17:9, God is referring to Judah.
Despite God’s commands to Judah, they kept disobeying the Lord. Immediately following Jeremiah 17:9, God says, “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).
From this passage, we know that God knows the condition of our hearts. He tells us plainly that He can search the heart and examine the mind. Nothing in our hearts or in our minds can be hidden from God. He knows everything.
Since God tells us our hearts are deceitful, we can know that it is true because God does not lie (Hebrews 6:18). Our hearts can deceive us, and we do not want to be ignorant of this truth. The more we train our hearts to focus on God, the better our heart conditions will be.
By praying to God daily, reading the Bible, and applying biblical teachings to your life, the better your heart will be at focusing on Christ. It is a dangerous business to follow your heart because it will only lead you into sin.
All of our hearts are sick because they are permeated with sin. Paul explains this scenario for us, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).
Even when we try to do good things, our sinful nature can lead us in the opposite direction. Often the direction our hearts are leading us is the way of destruction.
2. Trusting God
Instead of trusting our hearts or following after our heart’s desires, we should follow after God. He knows what is best for us and He loves us conditionally. The Lord will teach us the right way to go and what to do to follow after Him.
Praying the Psalms can help our hearts become aligned with God. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Our prayer needs to be directed to God creating in us a pure heart.
We cannot create a pure heart on our own because of our sin nature. Turning to God and asking for His help is what we need to do. Our hearts can lead us down bad roads and fill our minds with lies. Our hearts cannot be trusted because they are permeated with sin.
Rather than trusting our hearts, we need to trust God. God can be fully trusted as the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
The heart is deceitful above all else because of sin nature, but this does not mean that God’s power cannot change our hearts.
As we have established, God can renew our hearts and make them pure — all we have to do is ask. It is a nice thought that we could trust our hearts, but we simply cannot. Since we are born into sin, we could have underlying or anterior motives for our actions and behaviors.
Even as Christians, we still have to be careful because sin still lives in us. Despite the fact that we know Christ as our Savior and Lord does not mean we are unable to feel the effects of sin any longer.
In all honesty, since we are Christians, the devil will try even harder to call us to fall and to make us look like a fool. This is why we must take our stand against the devil and put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The devil wants us to follow after our hearts’ desires in order for us to fall into the trap of sin. Instead of following our hearts’ lead, we need to follow God. The Lord will never deceive us or try to trick us.
It is reasonable to think that since our hearts are our hearts then they would not try to do anything to harm us, but that does not include the factor of sin nature. As long as we are living on this earth, we will have a sin nature. Sin nature will not be eradicated until we are with Christ.
3. Aligning Your Heart with Christ
Until we are with Christ, we are at risk of sinning and disobeying God. In order to glorify God, the best, we must fill our hearts up with good things rather than bad things. We should devote ourselves to prayer, Bible reading, and meeting with other believers.
It is also important to talk to your close Christian friends and spiritual leaders when you feel your heart is deceiving you into believing a lie. By telling them, they will be able to intercede on your behalf in prayer to the Father.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, which means that our hearts cannot be trusted because they are full of sin.
The words of Jeremiah 17:9 are counter-cultural because the 21st century is focused on the manifesto of being “true to yourself” and “following your heart.”
As Christians, we know this is dangerous because our hearts deceive us into believing lies about God, others, and ourselves.
For further reading:
What Does it Mean to Have Clean Hands and a Pure Heart?
How Can I Guard My Heart?
Can God Heal a Broken Heart?
Why Do We Ask God to ‘Create in Me a Clean Heart’?
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.