Introduction: This weekend was graduation at my daughter’s school. I
attended the services and then helped move my daughter out of the
dormitory. A critical part of the move was a wonderful Dodge mini-van
that I bought several years ago for $700.00 (US). I love that van
mostly because I paid so little for it. At graduation I noticed
another parent who owned the latest model BMW 7 series. I
complimented this parent on his beautiful BMW. Later, when I had
filled my van with my daughter’s “stuff,” and was getting ready to
drive away, it turned out the “BMW parent” was right there. My first
impulse was to shuffle my feet for a little bit so that he would not
see me with my old van. Why did my heart not want the “BMW parent” to
see the “$700 van parent?” Let’s dive into our lesson and learn more
about our hearts!

  1. Disordered Heart

    1. Read James 3:13-16. What does James say causes disorder
      and evil practices in our life? (Envy and selfish

      1. Envy and selfish ambition are attitudes. Why do
        attitudes affect our actions? (James tells us that
        these attitudes cause disorder and evil practices. We
        will explore in more detail the link between
        attitudes and actions later.)

        1. What do you think is meant by “selfish
          ambition?” (It seems to mean wanting to put
          yourself ahead of others, or putting your group
          (“party spirit”) ahead of others.)

        2. Have you seen anyone in your church (v.14) boast
          about their party spirit? (How about “Our group
          is better than your group?” “We are more pure,
          more honest, more careful about obeying God.”)

      2. In my story about not wanting the”BMW parent” to
        identify me with my $700 mini-van, what attitude was
        reflected in my heart? (It is hard to judge my own
        heart. I was not unhappy that he owned the new BMW, I
        was concerned that he would think I was unworthy.
        However, I note that I felt a little better when I
        noticed that the dealer identification on the car
        showed he was not the first owner.)

        1. Was my attitude one of “selfish ambition?” (At a
          minimum, it shows a false attitude about life. I
          thought he was “worthy” because he had an
          expensive car and I was unworthy because of my
          old van.)

    2. Look again at James 3:13. What does James say should be
      the basis for deciding who is “worthy?” (James tells us
      that our wisdom and understanding should be reflected in a
      “good life” and “by deeds done in the humility that comes
      from wisdom.”)

      1. How about you? Do you determine worth based on money
        or on good deeds?

      2. Let’s test you. Assume you are going to hire a
        lawyer. One lawyer has a new car, a nice office and
        wears expensive suits. The other lawyer has a run
        down office, drives a $700 van and wears worn out
        clothing. Which one will you choose to represent you?
        (Oh, the issue is not so simple, is it! You might
        correctly decide that a competent lawyer earns more
        money than an incompetent lawyer. Since I was not
        looking to be hired by the “BMW parent,” my attitude
        about being seen with my $700 van was simply wrong.)

      3. Should you judge a Bible teacher by what kind of car
        the teacher drives? Is this like choosing a
        lawyer?(Part of my heart wants to report my Mercedes
        was sitting five cars away in the dormitory parking
        lot – just in case you say, “This guy drives a $700
        mini-van? Why should I think he knows anything? Why
        listen to him?” James 3:15 tells us that when we make
        these decisions based on “things” as opposed to “good
        deeds” we are using the devil’s wisdom.)

  2. Revealed Heart

    1. Read Matthew 12:33-35. Recall that I said it is hard for
      me to judge my own heart. On what basis does Jesus say
      that we can reliably judge our hearts? (Verse 34 says that
      what is in our heart flows out in our words.)

      1. Remember earlier I asked about why our attitudes
        affect our actions? What reason does Jesus give for
        our attitudes shaping our actions?

      2. Have you heard the saying “Actions speak louder than
        words?” Is Jesus’ teaching just the opposite? (Verse
        33 states Jesus’ point very broadly. It refers to
        good “fruit” coming from a good tree. Both actions
        and words reflect what is in a person’s heart.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:36-37. How important are our words?

      1. Should we be careful to watch our words since Jesus
        appears to say they are the basis for the judgment?
        (Your blood and your urine will likely reflect
        anything that is wrong with your body. However, no
        doctor would say, “You need to be very careful about
        maintaining the condition of your blood and your
        urine.” That is because the blood and the urine are
        merely predictors of what is going on in the body.
        You cannot “fix” the body by changing the blood and
        urine. You address the problem by fixing the body
        instead of the blood. Fixing our words does not fix
        our heart.)

        1. What is a “careless” word? Strong’s tells us the
          Greek word translated “careless” means
          “inactive, lazy, useless.” The Dictionary of
          Bible languages adds “without thought,
          ineffective, indifferent.” What kind of words
          are these? Give me examples. (The context would
          seem to tell us that when we use words and do
          not consider the evil effect they have, we
          violate this teaching against “meaningless”
          words. I have certainly heard prayers that were
          “useless.” At graduation last year, I heard a
          prayer in which the speaker mentioned the level
          of oil production in his home country!)

    3. Let’s go back to James. Read James 3:9-11. What is the
      answer to the question posed in verse 11? ( James 3:12
      tells us the answer is “no.”)

      1. We just decided that our words reflect what is in our
        heart. Here James says both good and bad words can
        come out of the same heart. How can that be? How can
        you reconcile what James says here with what Jesus
        said in Matthew 12:33-34? (I think James’ point is
        that the “praise” that comes out of a mouth that also
        says evil things is not honest praise.)

  3. Protected Heart

    1. Read Proverbs 4:23. What is a “wellspring?” (It is the
      source of the spring. The starting point.)

      1. How is your heart the “source” or “starting point” of
        your life? (This is a slightly different repetition
        of what we learned earlier: our heart is the source
        of what we do and what we say.)

      2. Since we are concerned about what we do and what we
        say, how should we “guard” our heart?

    2. Read Philippians 4:8-9. We decided that the words and
      deeds we do reflect what is in our heart. What is Paul’s
      prescription for guarding our heart? (Paul instructs us to
      concentrate on the good, noble and beautiful things of
      life. He suggests that we put in practice the teachings
      of the Bible. Focusing our mind on the good, reinforcing
      positive thoughts with good deeds, protects and
      strengthens the right impulses of the heart.)

    3. Friend, how is your heart? Is it filled with envy and
      strife? Do your words reveal “heart problems?” If so, why
      not repent, ask God to change your heart, and then
      determine to protect it in the future by keeping focused
      on the right things in life. Protect your heart by doing
      those things that reinforce right thoughts.

  4. Next week: Selfless Service.