In this morning’s reading I came across the full passage surrounding the Scripture I shared yesterday about guarding our heart. “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov 4:20-23)

To truly guard our hearts, we must fill it with God’s Word and be careful to keep out worldliness. The next verse speaks of this: “Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.” (Prov 4:24) As Jesus pointed out in Luke 6:45, there is a close connection between what is in the heart and what comes out of the mouth.

There’s a similar Scripture to verse 24: “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the Word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (James 1:21) that ties back to Solomon’s advice: “Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.”

Corrupt and foul talk betray an evil heart. Christians are commanded to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior (Eph 4:25–31; Col 3:8). The apostle James writes about the power of the tongue and says “it can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself” (James 3:6), and he points out the incongruity of using the tongue to bless and curse (James 3:9-10). He writes in verse 10: “Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”

A person may argue that words are just words, and therefore there is nothing wrong with any particular term or combination of syllables. However, that reasoning doesn’t stand up to the indictment Scripture levels against corrupt and foul speech. Whether one feels the physical sounds matter or not, the intent of the heart matters a great deal—making it clear that controlling one’s tongue is more than a mere suggestion.

So instead of giving into the worldliness among which we live, we are advised: “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (Prov 4:24-27) A psalmist prayed, “Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through Your Word.” (Ps 119:37)

This should remind us of Jesus’s words to His followers: “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:3-4)  If we keep our eyes on Jesus and the path He lays before us while keeping His Words in the meditation of our heart, then we can stay on the safe path marked out for us and not get sidetracked; [and the Holy Spirit can help us to] keep our feet from following evil”.

If we don’t want to disgrace the Lord and ourselves, we will heed Solomon’s advice to refuse to stray from the path of righteousness. When tempted to sin, that advice helps us to not fall into sin, but to obey God’s Word and do His will (1 Cor 10:13). “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)