One is very personal and affects our every choice. The other is utterly foundational and has the potential to be a great blessing to all within our influence–or incredibly destructive.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23, New Living Translation)
The English Standard Version translates this verb as “Keep.” The New American Standard version translates this verb as “Watch.” This verb is in the form of a command. This is not something to take lightly. The writer of the Proverbs is detailing the nature of wisdom. The first nine chapters of the Proverbs personifies wisdom and touts all of wisdom’s benefits. Chapters 10-31 lay out all the various proverbial sayings that describe wise living.
But in this particular verse the writer commands us to guard, watch, keep our hearts as a top priority. This is so stated as a command because of the Hebrew understanding of the heart. The “heart” is more than just the seat of emotions. It is the composite of our mind, will and emotions. It is our governing center, the place where we choose. We are to guard our heart in the same way we would guard a prison cell, under total confinement. The imagery is that of our heart being a fresh water spring. We dare not let anything pollute this source of life. We know from other parts of the Bible that our hearts can be very fickle, even wicked at times. If our heart is not rightly oriented towards God and His ways all of the time we will choose poorly–to our demise and the demise of others. Never forget leader that your leadership choices are always leveraged.
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21, English Standard Version)
Paul, in exhorting his younger protege, commands Timothy to guard, watch, keep the deposit that has been entrusted to him. That “deposit” is surely the Gospel in all of its fulness. Paul is not simply talking about the message of salvation, but the totality of doctrine that surrounds and adds color to the message of salvation. Timothy was being placed in charge of all of the house churches in the city of Ephesus. This city was a bastion of cult worship surrounding the Temple of Artemis. Many things passed for sound knowledge. Only one thing pointed to the eternality of Christ–the core doctrine of the gospel. There are many things passing around toady as viable “knowledge.” But they are false hopes for real life. Sometimes these new streams of knowledge even flow from the Church, but are false and do not lead to life. As spiritual leaders we must guard that which has been stewarded to us. We must strongly guard the core doctrine of the faith that we might preserve it for the next generation. We must point out error and herald truth. We literally must keep the faith!
Leader, be on your guard!
Other Resources: Guard Duty in the Spiritual War: 3 Ways to Guard Your Heart