Going away to church camp once or twice a year was always a highlight of my childhood years. At camp, one of my favorite games to play was called “Capture the Flag”. Essentially the idea of the game is to have 2 separate teams on either side of a line with a flag or ball stationed somewhere in each team’s territory. The winning team will be the one who is able to “capture the flag/ball” and get it across to their territory. The difficulty lies in the fact that as soon as you cross into the opposing territory you are at risk of getting tagged and having to be removed from the game. I remember each team would always select at least one guard whose job was to strictly stay by the flag and guard it, which he was usually successful at until one was inevitably overpowered by more players that were coming to get the ball than he could tag out.
We see that idea today in Proverbs 4:23, which reads, “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The word “guard”, means to watch over and protect. The word “heart” referring to our mind or inner being. And the phrase “with all diligence”, meaning above all else, or with vigilance. Putting it all together, this verse is a stark reminder to do everything we can to protect ourselves from the sins and vices that would negatively impact us, primarily in a spiritual sense. The applications of this principle are numerous and varied but I’ll just touch on a few to think about.
One would be to limit what things we allow ourselves to be exposed to in the form of TV, other forms of entertainment or associations. This application is usually directed at Christian young people but we adults need to be continually reminded of this as well. We see another application in the next verse which reads, “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” Certainly the ability to control our tongue will go a long way in protecting our spiritual lives. How many reputations of Christians have been ruined by things that were said in a heated moment? How many years of marriages have been scarred by something said in a short 10 second window of time?
Usually those big sins that we think about just didn’t “happen.” No, usually they were there in seed form, not taken care of properly and thus allowed to fester and rear it’s ugly head at just the right time. Thus the imperative to “guard our heart.” To look out for those little seeds of lust, anger, jealousy and pride and deal with them before they become major strangleholds in our lives. Guard your spiritual life, protect it with all that you have. For out of it truly flows “all of the issues of life.”