Sunday, April 08, 2007

"As a man thinketh..."

I found out recently, after a few minutes of study, that I have been taking a verse out of context and misapplying it for years. It is Proverbs 23:7. Here’s the part that I knew by heart: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (KJV) Notice the 3 little dots at the end of that quote? That means that there is more to that sentence. It is from the King James Version and it is only the first half of the verse.

Let’s look at it in context: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.” (Vs. 6-7) It is saying that we should not eat from someone who is greedy or stingy because even though he may offer you some food… in his heart he doesn’t want you to have it.

Now let’s look at the English Standard Version (which is what I use; it tends to be a more literal translation). Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” These verses are just saying that even though a stingy man says “eat and drink,” his thoughts (in his heart) are saying get away from my food. We’ve flipped this passage upside down to mean that your thoughts create who you are and what you do. This passage is actually saying that the stingy man’s thoughts are completely different than what he is doing or saying.

We’ve turned this passage around to mean: “You become what you think about.” I remember hearing a motivational tape of Earl Nightingale when I was a teen and that’s what he said: “You become what you think about.”James Allen even wrote a famous book full of humanistic philosophy and slapped that verse on the cover for a title (“As a man thinketh”). This passage is not telling us that we become what we think about.

It’s interesting that all philosophical schools of thought and worldviews agree on the belief that you become what you think about… except true Biblical Christianity. The Bible tells us that what we think, what we feel, and what we do are a direct result of who we are; not vice versa. You don’t become what you think about; your thoughts flow from who you are.

Jesus didn’t come into this world to just to give the mind new information about God or to open up new and mystical experiences of God or tell us new ways of doing things for God. He came as God so that we could be reborn back into His image. The solution to our problems is not within us. Actually, the cause of all our problems is within us. The answer is not in how we think, how we feel or how we act. The only way to “BECOME” a new creature – is in CHRIST. You don’t become what you think about; you become a new creature in Christ… And THEN, and only then, do all things become new (including your thoughts, your feelings and your actions). (2 Cor 5:17) When you flip it around you have humanistic idolatry.

Jesus put it this way: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Matt 12:33-35) Our thoughts and our feelings and our actions are all fruits of who we are. The fruit doesn’t produce the tree; the tree produces the fruit. We don’t become what we think about; our thoughts come forth from what we are.

This is why God promised to give us a new heart… “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezek 36:24-27) For you philosophical types, we could say it this way: We don’t need epistemological solutions (what we think) or existential solutions (what we feel) or pragmatical solutions (what we do); we need an ontological solution (being – who we are) – a new heart; a new BEING.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10) We don’t become what we think about, we become what God makes us… The thoughts, feelings and actions follow.

Rom 9:15-16 says, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

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