4 Steps to Evaluate the Heart behind our Actions

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July 5, 2020

Why do we do the things we do? And once we figure out the answer to that question, how can we evaluate the heart behind our actions? The solution may be easier than you think.

Let’s look at this parable in Luke 18:9–14.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9–14

The lesson in this story explains why our heart matters, but the beauty lies in the four very practical frameworks we can apply to examine our hearts in our actions.

Photo by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

1️⃣ You’re you.

You can only be who you were created to be, so why are you comparing yourself to others? The problem is not inherently with the comparison itself; our brains were designed to compare things. The problem is that often, we make inadequate comparisons.

In verse 11, we find the Pharisee comparing himself with other people to justify his righteousness. He compares out of resentment and thanks God for not being like them. The Pharisee had to put other people down to lift himself up. That’s not a good way to compare. The comparison the Pharisee made did not measure his worth objectively. When we make similar comparisons in our lives, we fail to see ourselves objectively. We were not meant to have somebody else’s successes or their sins. We were meant to have our own.

We were not meant to have somebody else’s successes or their sins. We were meant to have our own.

2️⃣ What you do doesn’t matter as much as why you do it.

Have you ever asked yourself why you do the things that you do? I never did. I bet the Pharisee in the story never did either. In verse 12, the Pharisee lists some of the things he does. He obviously does them because that is what he is supposed to do. When you read between the lines, we understand that these actions are points of pride. But the intention behind them was broken. He misses the mark on why those things were instituted in the first place — to examine the heart. If we want to be real, then we need to understand why we do the things we do.

3️⃣ Be humble before God.

When we look at verse 13, we see that the tax collector went to the temple to seek God’s provision. The tax collector saw that he was not deserving. Any chance he had for a relationship with God would be from the sheer mercy of an all-holy God. On the other hand, the Pharisee went to the temple to have God seek his provision. That is, the Pharisee believed he was owed something by God.

The difference in posture made all the difference in this parable. We need to have a heart postured toward humility before God. Just think about it, it was when we were most humble that we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior. Jesus Christ chose to die for us when we were far from Him. It’s only when we’re humble enough to admit we are sinners who can’t help ourselves, that Jesus comes into our hearts and minds as our Savior. Humility in the form of faith transforms us from being dead in our sins, to alive in Christ.

4️⃣ Allow God to transform us.

Humility is transformative. Humility allows God to work in our lives and through our actions. When we are humble enough to allow God into our lives, he transforms us. That is what the tax collector is asking for when he is beating his breast, begging for mercy. He isn’t merely saying sorry, he is saying, “I repent, change me!” Likewise, transformation happens when we allow God to work in us.

Humility allows God to work in our lives and through our actions.

This is why our heart matters: Jesus will only transform us when we stop comparing ourselves, know why we do the things we do, humble ourselves before Him, and allow Him to work in us. When we do these things, there will be no wasted actions on our part. There will be no empty religion. There will just be you and me living the fullest and most real-life we were created to have.