By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
One of the most amazing gifts that God has given us the human mind. The ability to learn, think, choose, and reason is the essence of what makes us human. While the ability to think makes us human, it actually goes deeper. Your thoughts become a reflection of who you really are. God certainly understands this, and he speaks to this in various places all throughout his word.
One of the verses we often quote to back this is up is “as a man thinks in his heart so is he.” While this is true, I want to give you three examples of why Proverbs 23:7 (As a man thinks in his heart, so is he), can be uniquely applied.
What the Bible Means by ‘As a Man Thinks, So Is He’
To clarify, this proverb is not just talking about men. Women are included, too.
Truly, all our hearts—women and men—are similarly prone to sin. Let’s consider the full verse so we can get the right perspective.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. – Proverbs 23:7(KJV)
What you see in this verse is a person who is saying one thing with their mouth—but their heart is in a completely different place. When faced with this conundrum, which one do you believe? You believe what’s in the heart. The thoughts and inclinations of the heart shape the reality of who you are. They shape your thinking which will ultimately shape your actions.
That’s why what you think about matters, because it is forming the basis of who you will become.
However, there is something about this verse that cannot be overlooked. Who you are on the inside and what you say on the outside, don’t always line up. The Pharisees, for example, were very good at presenting themselves as very pious, devout, religious people, yet Jesus called them hypocrites.
This word hypocrite in the Greek means actor. The Pharisees were playing a role on the outside that didn’t reflect who they really were. If you need to know who a person really is, you can’t always determine that by the things they say, you have to look at the root of who they are, and that root is the heart. Everything a person is flows out of their heart.
Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. The fruit of the tree is simply a reflection of the root it’s connected to. You will never get an orange from an apple tree root. The core of who you are is evidenced by the thoughts or roots of your heart. That’s why what is on the inside is so much more important than what is on the inside. You can mask the outside to others, and you can try to bury it to the world around you. But, ultimately, what’s in your heart will reveal who you really are.
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Context around Proverbs 23:7
The vast majority of Proverbs were written by King Solomon, regarded as the wisest man who ever lived. These proverbs are designed to give perspective on life, living, and good decision making.
That’s why the encouragement throughout the book is to get wisdom, which is the application of knowledge. This is the essence of all the Proverbs.
Most of them are very practical and if applied can transform your thinking which will in turn lead to better choices.
Biblical Translations of Proverbs 23:7
In the King James Version, for example, Proverbs 23:7 says, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Here is this verse in other translations.
NKJV – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.
AMP - For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior—one who manipulates]. He says to you, “Eat and drink,” Yet his heart is not with you [but it is begrudging the cost].
ERV - They might tell you to eat and drink all you want, but they don’t really mean it. They are the kind of people who are only thinking about the cost.
EXB - Selfish people are always worrying about how much the food costs [They calculate in their minds; or They are like a hair in the throat]. They tell you, “Eat and drink,” but ·they don’t really mean it [their heart is not with you].
GNT - Come on and have some more,” he says, but he doesn't mean it. What he thinks is what he really is.
MSG - Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad; don’t expect anything special. He’ll be as stingy with you as he is with himself; he’ll say, “Eat! Drink!” but won’t mean a word of it.
The root or core meaning of this verse is one of hypocrisy. You say one thing but you really don’t mean it. It’s like the unethical salesperson who will tell you how wonderful you look in that outfit only to make the sale. The bottom line is: God hates hypocrisy.
This theme is evident in other places throughout the Bible as well. I want to share with you from scripture, three examples of why Proverbs 23:7 (as a man thinks in his heart, so is he), is what God uses to determine a person’s authenticity. Consider these three questions:
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1. Is Your Worship Genuine?
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. – Isaiah 29:13
Unfortunately, in churches everywhere, there are people who give God praise from their lips or tradition but their hearts are nowhere near him. They love the idea of going to church and being in the atmosphere...but have no real desire to truly seek God or draw near to him. They get caught up in the expressions of worship and forget it’s the heart of worship that really matters. That’s why Jesus said in John 4:23 –
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Be careful that your worship doesn’t just fall in line with what everyone else is doing. Make sure you are worshipping from a sincere place, a true heart. A heart that desires God when you are in the service and more importantly when you are not. This is what God desires.
Here’s a tip: if you know the lyrics and understand the message of the songs you are singing, it will help you worship from a pure place.
2. Are You Serving out of Relationship or for Acceptance?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:21-23
What’s fascinating about this scripture is the things people are doing aren’t bad, they just weren’t flowing out of a relationship with Christ, which is bad. It was like they are using the things they do to gain favor or win God’s approval.
There is no amount of things you could ever do that will cause God to accept you or love you more. The way to the Father is through Jesus Christ. Any other way is evil, even though we don’t often think of it in these terms.
If you are serving, then let your service to him flow out of your relationship with him. You serve him because you love him. You don’t serve him to get him to love you.
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3. Are You the Center of Your Own Show?
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. – Matthew 6:1
Jesus really jumps straight to the heart of the matter: why are you doing what you are doing? You might say you’re doing it for the right reason. But if you are doing it to be seen, then what you have thought in your heart? Jesus is encouraging us to be careful of the why because when you know that it reveals what’s really in your heart.
A close examination of Proverbs 23:7 (as a man thinks in his heart, so is he) can give you so much understanding. You and I need to always guard our hearts, paying close attention to what’s in them. You want to get to the place where everything you say is agreeing with everything that is truly in your heart. Because as you think, so are you.
A Prayer for Your Heart
Lord, let it be that the things that come from my mouth are a reflection of the true condition of my heart. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight. For you Lord are my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.