The word of the day is “heart.” St. Theophan the Recluse taught that the heart is the innermost center of our being. It is the seat of our thoughts, emotions, will, self-awareness, and conscience. It follows that the state of the heart determines the condition of our bodies, minds, and souls. In this vein, in our reading of Proverbs 14: 27-15:4, the wise sage of Proverbs says, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (NKJV vs. 30). Today we consider what it means to possess a spiritually healthy heart.
A Calm, Peaceful, and Tranquil Heart
What does it mean to have a “sound” heart? Various versions translate the adjective “sound” as “peaceful” (NIV 30), tranquil (The Berean Study and New American Standard Bibles), “calm, peaceful, and tranquil” (Amplified Bible). These versions agree with the Septuagint that uses the Greek word meaning “gentle,” “mild,” and “humble” (Strong’s #4240, 2090. These terms describe the grace of soul that accepts the ways of God as good and beneficial. We might say that the “sound” heart is at peace with God and therefore endures the storms of life with serenity.
As the physical heart distributes oxygen to the whole body, so the peaceful heart disperses tranquility to the entire self. The opposite is the heart that is agitated with anxiety and discontent. The troubled heart stirs up the passions so that they rage within the whole self. For example, the sage says that “envy is rottenness to the bones” (NKJV 12:4). Envy and jealousy (Strong’s #7068) are the opposite of the contented mind. They infect the whole soul and body down to the marrow of the bones. But they stand for other passions that also disturb the heart’s composure and sicken the entire self.
Wisdom Rests in a Tranquil Heart
How do we avoid the restlessness of the soul and acquire serenity of the heart? The sage’s answer is by gaining wisdom. He says, “Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known” (NKJV vs. 33). According to the sage, wisdom lies in the unseen depths of the tranquil heart. The knowledge of God and His ways are hidden at the bottom of the peaceful soul.
Yet the serene heart is so secure in its understanding of God’s ways that it can keep that wisdom in its secret chamber. Those who possess a tranquil spirit need not boast about their presumed knowledge. They do not have to seek the admiration of others for the spiritual progress that he supposedly has attained. They have no compulsion to disclose the inner secrets of their hearts.
In summary, as a healthy heart gives life and vigor to the physical body, a healthy spiritual heart gives life and well-being to the entire self. Such a tranquil heart is the gift of the knowledge of God and the understanding of His ways.
The contrast that the sage makes is between the serenity and agitation of the heart. How does our outward disposition reflect our inner state, one way or the other? How is the degree of peacefulness a measure of our wisdom as well as our faith in God?