He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
In her book on the events leading to the first World War, and the campaigns of that first month of August, Barbara Tuchmann discussed at some length the plans of the generals on both sides. In the French high command there were strong desires to fight (and win) with certain strategies which were, perhaps, not well suited for modern armies and equipment.
Arguments can always be found to turn desire into policy.
Barbara Tuchmann, The Guns of August
The generals wanted to win the war quickly, to go on the attack and crush their foe, without, perhaps sufficient regard for what the enemy would be able to do. But if those who desire a plan are not willing to consider its weaknesses and adjust accordingly, they are ill-prepared for the crisis.
In that case, they merely end up giving rise to statements like Tuchmann’s: “Arguments can always be found to turn desire into policy.” If you want to do something badly enough, you will develop arguments as to why you should do it. Those arguments may not persuade others, but if you are determined, you can always find reasons (and you will eventually believe them, too) why you should do the thing you are wanting to do.
That Untrustworthy Heart
It is true spiritually, too. If we want to sin, if we want to follow a foolish course, we will always find reasons to do so. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” We may think our arguments are sound, but they came out of our own hearts, and our Proverb today tells us it is a fool who trusts his own heart. The fool rarely bothers to spend much time checking for reasons NOT to do the thing he wants to do, carefully examining his own arguments. He trusts his own heart — to his own destruction.
Our decision-making must be firmly anchored in the Word of God, not in what we think or desire. It doesn’t matter if we’ve drummed up some arguments in favour of a course of action, if it isn’t consistent with the Bible. If God tells us directly what to do (or not do), we must follow Him whatever our own desires may say.
Improving Heart Habits
But God doesn’t always give direct commands. Sometimes, He gives us the principles from His Word, but we have to apply them to the situation we face. In those cases, it isn’t just a case of having read the Bible once or twice, or making a list of commands and following them.
We have to really know His Word, to have made it the work of our heart, to train our sinful hearts away from its rebellious and deceitful past. When constant practice makes us skilled in the knowledge and use of Scripture, when we replace sinful heart habits with holy heart habits, it not only helps us to avoid being controlled by sinful desires, it helps to change those desires for better ones.
If you think you can trust your own heart, you are a fool. That is what our Proverb today says. But if you turn your heart into a storehouse, a treasury, of Scriptural truth, it becomes an ally in the spiritual battles of this life.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.