The Deceitful Human Heart — A Scripture Analysis

October 15, 2023

The Bible has much to say about the deceitful human heart. In fact, the heart is mentioned more than 800 times and is an essential topic of discussion throughout the scriptures. When conducting a quick search of the word ‘heart’ in the Bible, one can quickly see that the term is used in various ways, depending on the context of each passage. 

Matthew’s epistle connects it to treasure and our capacity to love God.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

The Psalmists write about a desire for a pure heart, a longing after the Father, and blessings that follow those who obey.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Psalm 20:4

Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

Psalm 119:2

The Prophet Jeremiah warned against trusting our hearts and, conversely, gave advice on how to seek after Yahuah.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he warned of how following after the desire of our hearts would lead to spiritual ruin.

Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is forever worthy of praise! Amen.

Romans 1:24-25

Mark tells us that defilement begins in the heart.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil reasonings, adulteries, whorings, murders, thefts, greedy desires, wickednesses, deceit, indecency, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.”

Mark 7:20-22

When it comes to the biblical term ‘heart’ it is quite challenging to provide a short and precise definition. If you search for the biblical meaning of ‘heart’ you will come across numerous discussions attempting to define it. 

Dr. Lorence Collins gives one of the best and most concise definitions I have found: 

In the Bible, the heart is considered the seat of life or strength. Hence, it means mind, soul, spirit, or one’s entire emotional nature and understanding. 

This definition aligns well with the broad biblical usage of the term ‘heart’, encompassing both righteous and sinful applications. 

To gain a deeper understanding, it would be beneficial to examine various aspects related to the heart, including the heart of Yahuah, the heart of man, the wicked heart, the repentant heart, the prideful heart, and the righteous heart. By breaking it down in this manner, we can embark on a more comprehensive study of this term.

Contrasting the Righteous and Unrighteous Heart

As ‘heart’ pertains to righteousness, the term connects with a devout believer’s mind, soul, spirit, and emotional nature, aligning with the ways of God where the believer walks in obedience to His Torah. 

On the other hand, as it pertains to sin, the mind, soul, spirit, and emotional nature align with the fallen world’s ways (sinfulness), walking in opposition to God’s commandments.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV

As this passage asserts, the human heart is deceitful and wicked but follows with how Yahuah searches the hearts and minds of people to give them according to their ways. 

On one hand, we find encouragement in passages like Psalm 37:4, which instructs us to “delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” On the other hand, there are passages like Romans 1:24, which states that “God gave them over to the desires of their hearts, leading to impurity and dishonoring of their bodies with one another.” 

These scriptures show that whether we choose to live righteously or unrighteously, God allows us to pursue the desires of our hearts. As believers, it is crucial for us to remain focused and disciplined on following God’s ways, so we do not risk our hearts being turned towards sinful desires.

The Rebellious Heart

deceitful human heart

One of the fundamental challenges faced by many people worldwide is the disbelief in the existence of the Creator, a phenomenon commonly observed in the secular world around us. The first chapter of the book of Romans eloquently explains these deceptive matters of the heart, offering timeless wisdom that remains as relevant today as it was in the past.

After Shaul’s (Paul’s) greeting in Romans 1:1-16, in verses 17-32, Shaul summarizes the core of what leads to the heart being deceived. As verse 20 points out:

 Since the creation of the world, His invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, both His everlasting power and Mightiness, for them to be without excuse.

 That is to say, since the time of creation, the ways, laws, and morals of Yahuah are clearly evident in His creation, all around us. Yah’s everlasting power and mightiness are self-evident. If human beings are simply observant of what they witness in nature, they can observe the evidence of Yahuah’s creation, so mankind is without excuse. Psalm 19:1-6 confirms this point, declaring that “The heavens declare the glory of Yah.”

Despite the evidence of the Creator observed throughout the world, humankind continues to rebelliously ignore the truths right in front of them. Disbelief in the Creator is, of course, just one element of a compounding issue of delusion present in the world, as 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 warns:

For the secret of lawlessness is already at work – only until he who now restrains comes out of the midst. And then the lawless one shall be revealed, whom the Master shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth and bring to naught with the manifestation of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth, in order for them to be saved. And for this reason, Elohim sends them a working of delusion, for them to believe the falsehood, in order that all should be judged who did not believe the truth, but have delighted in the unrighteousness.

Sadly, this is the situation in which we observe most people in the world where they are living in a state of delusion and where they have been turned over to the desires of a carnal, sinful heart. 

Yahusha – Our Example

As believers, we must align our will and actions to agree with Yahuah’s will, walking as Yahusha walked. Yahusha was the example of perfect alignment of his life walk with the will of the Father as we see in John 4:34, which reads, “יהושע said to them, “My food is to do the desire of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.”

Likewise, in John 12:49-50, Yahusha states, “Because I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent Me has given Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, as the Father has said to me, so I speak.” 

It is clear that the desires of Yahusha’s heart were 100% in alignment with Father Yahuah’s will and that the desires of his heart were righteous continually.

Throughout the scriptures, we find numerous examples and instructions from the disciples urging believers to follow Yahusha’s example and walk as he walked to achieve alignment of our lives with the will of the Father. 

As we see in 1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21, and as it is very simply stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1, we must mimic Yahusha’s behavior.

  Be imitators of me, as I am of Messiah.

In John 15, the Messiah gives us a beautiful formula of how to remain in alignment with him throughout our life walk. 

If you guard My commands, you shall stay in My love even as I have guarded My Father’s commands and stay in His love. These words I have spoken to you, so that My joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete. This is My command, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:10-12

Final Thoughts

The list of specific sins related to a deceitful human heart is endless, so there’s no need to delve into each one. The important point is that the root cause of heart matter deceptions stems from walking rebelliously against Yahuah’s Torah and His ways.

Walking in opposition to Yahuah’s Torah results in one being given over to the sinful desires of their own heart, which can quickly cascade into a multitude of sinful behaviors – ultimately destroying one’s soul at the Judgement. 

We must remember the warning given by the prophet Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

Ultimately, Yahuah will give us over to the desires of our hearts. Since He gifted us with a Free Will at creation, each person will naturally follow the desires of their heart and make their own choices during their lives.

To maintain alignment with Yah’s ways, it is crucial for believers to walk daily with Messiah Yahusha, keeping the Father’s ways and striving to show ourselves approved.

Through our continued growth and dedication to Yahuah, our hearts’ desires will align with Yah’s desire for our lives, and the two will be in harmony. It will result in the desires of our heart leaning toward righteousness and not sinfulness. 

Ultimately, a righteous believer’s heart desires that Yahuah’s kingdom come and His will be done in all things.

I hope this brief discussion has blessed you, and I pray that Yahuah will continue to transform and renew our minds to live and walk in righteousness in a manner pleasing to Him. Shalom Aleichem, and thank you for reading.

Jay Kilcrease
Jay Kilcrease

Jay Kilcrease is a native Oklahoman, U.S. Air Force veteran, husband of 19 years, and father of three boys. He served many years in music ministry and is also an ordained minister. His pursuit of academics has earned him three undergraduate degrees and an MBA from Liberty University. Jay has led his family in Torah Biblical Studies for the past ten years and aspires to apply his writing skills for the furtherance of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the service of Yahusha Ha’Mashiach.


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