• Hughson T. Ong

On Faith and the Human Heart

Updated: Aug 18, 2018

Faith is believing in someone or something, the consequence and evidence of which is manifested in a person’s lifestyle. One’s lifestyle may demonstrate faith; however, I would argue that this only holds true if the heart has right intentions.

Faith can be faked and intentions can be concealed, but certainly not before God.

“The Lord does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

The Bible warns against the desensitization of the human heart (Ps. 95:8; Heb. 3:15; 4:7), because God has made the heart the seat of human intentions. Jesus says, “People’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes” (Mt. 13:15). King Solomon, writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). René Descartes argues that the act of thinking or of doubting demonstrates the existence of a thinking entity—the mind, the soul, the heart—“I think, therefore I am.”

In our post-postmodern or trans-postmodern society today, many will argue that what constitutes right intention varies from individual to individual. Rightly so. But diversity is definitely not a moral-soundness indicator. The biblical foundation for right intentions seems clear: “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-38; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27; cf. Dt. 6:5); the first cannot exist without the second and vice versa (1 Jn. 4:19-20). Jesus’ command aims deliberately at the human heart, because only the human heart possesses the capacity to love.

But if the heart betrays human intentions and reveals who people truly are, then why is it that people can still perform good deeds, even though they don’t have the right intentions?

Every good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit; you recognize a tree by its fruit (Mt. 7:15-20). But reality tells us that people are different. And because we can’t see people’s intentions, we can’t really tell. From a third-person viewpoint, we dislike movie characters who pretend to be the morally-good person or the one on the good side. In real life, we see friends stab their friend’s back when they’re not around. We see Christians implementing double standards in the workplace. The list goes on. But you get the point.

Indeed, “good” deeds that outwardly show those around you how “good” you are do not necessarily reveal the true intention of the heart.

Jesus says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are from me” (Mk. 7:6).

Jesus’ rebuke against the play actors of his day is a story and lesson that Christians know fully well. But many ignore it, some give up on it, and others even try to do the opposite—in fact, they’ve mastered play acting! Play acting comes in varying forms and degrees depending on the character and role a person is playing. It’s a shame that many Christians have resorted to play acting to achieve their goals. We certainly can’t see the intention of the human heart, but the Lord does. It is worth our everything to make it right before God and others.