Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
That’s Proverbs 4:23 KJV, a very familiar scripture to many of us no doubt. It’s one I’ve pondered time and again but never really plumbed the depths of. Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You by Andy Stanley is a book that takes heart issues and offers Biblical, practical advice on how to confront these issues in our own lives. Stanley shines the spotlight on four destructive emotions that have the potential to wreck our lives: guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Stanley doesn’t soft pedal any of these issues; instead, he offers Biblical counsel for dealing with them. From the outset he says that our problem is that we have trained our behavior but not our hearts. We’re sort of like the little boy who, upon being reprimanded and made to sit down, says, “I might be sitting, but I’m standing on the inside!” Unfortunately, we’ve learned to mostly control the outside, but on the inside we can be a seething mess of guilt, anger, greed, or jealousy, and sometimes even a combination of two or more of those monsters. If we keep those in our hearts for long enough, they eventually manifest themselves somehow in our lives. For someone not sure if he suffers from any of these problems, Stanley recommends asking one’s family and close friends. They know!
Stanley spends about the first half of the book arguing that these heart issues are actually a problems that need to be addressed. I thought this part was a bit protracted, but then again, I didn’t need convincing. I’m already aware of how messed up a human heart can be–I’m the proud owner of one myself. 🙂 Once he begins offering a solution to each heart issue–a practice or discipline to counteract each negative emotion or pattern–that’s when the book gets really good and practical. I don’t want to give away his solutions since they’re the meat of the book’s message, but let me say that he brings up some powerful and sometimes overlooked practices taught in the Bible.
Surprisingly to me, the part of the book that hit me right between the eyes is the part on greed. Me? Greedy? No way! Sheesh. I thought I had this one in the bag. 😉 This is the part that got me:
But unbeknownst to most greedy people, greed is fueled by fear. Once you peel back all the excuses and the endless “But what if. . . ?” scenarios, you discover a heart full of fear. Specifically, this person fears that God either can’t or won’t take care of him. And if God won’t, then who will? So greedy people set out to acquire and maintain everything the need to provide the sense of security they desire. But like all human appetites, the appetite for financial security can never be fully and finally satisfied. There’s never enough. So the acquisition and hoarding and self-indulgence continue. (139)
Ouch. Reading this section of the book was like seeing myself with new eyes, and reading Stanley‘s solution to greed was liberating. Oh, it’s nothing I had never heard before, but somehow Stanley says it in such a way that a generous lifestyle is set in stark relief agaist a greedy lifestyle, and being generous looks so much freer.
I’m really, really glad I read this one. My sweet mother-in-love gave me this one for my birthday with the recommendation that it’s one of the best books she’s read. She is a very, very wise woman, so I had high expectations for it. Andy Stanley gets to the core issues of life in this book. I give it a Highly Recommended. (Multnomah, 2011)