Heart, Soul, Mind

William Brenner

Heart, soul, mind — all three little words, like the word, "love" have multiple meanings in both the secular culture and biblical context. Since we are not here to write sentimental greeting cards, I'll stick to biblical references, and since there are so very many, try to give the relationship between them. In the Bible, there are 825 references to "heart," 271 references to "soul," and 139 to "mind." Where should we begin? With the three passages in the New Testament in which Jesus mentions all three words in the exact same context:

• Matthew 22:37: "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'"

• Mark 12:30: "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"

• Luke 10:27: "And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.'"

Each of these passages (from the ESV) concerns how we are to love the Lord our God, and there is no better instruction possible than from Jesus Christ Himself. If we look at a verse immediately preceding this, such as Mark 12:29, we find the Lord beginning with the Creed of Israel (Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord). The Pharisees understood this truth intellectually, but they did not apply it to their lives. Despite this, truth remains truth, even when it is coupled with hypocrisy. These concepts of loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind, relate to the two greatest commandments on which hang all of the law and the prophets. This contains the substance of all the religious and moral duties that are in the law and the prophets. Jesus was instructing us to understand both our duty to God and to man by defining the true love of God and our neighbor.

When a teacher of the law asked our Lord a question, it was not so much to test His knowledge, but His judgment. The first and greatest commandment is to love God, and that must be sincere, not just by the words of our mouths. It must involve the heart, soul, and mind. We have to be completely engaged in what we feel, how we think, and how it changes us to strengthen the influence of the Holy Spirit in our souls. It is not a self-love which easily becomes corrupt, but it involves concern for the welfare of our souls and bodies. It often calls for a denial of ourselves for the good of others. The three — heart, soul, and mind — become reformed by God as we permit Him to enter us.

If we love God with all three of these — heart, soul and mind — we become humble and content with our lives and stop seeking to compare ourselves with other men. The love of God keeps us from being impatient or covetous, or from entertaining unholy desires. We become watchful over ourselves to maintain a clean conscience. If we also love our neighbor as ourselves, we will free ourselves from anger, envy, malice, revenge, and unchristian thoughts. Together, heart, soul, and mind take us closer to the mind of Christ so we begin to walk as He walked and think as He thinks.

So "all our heart" means that we shall love with all our ability, imagination, and power. We will love God more than we love any other human being or possession. We will set our hearts to become strongly focused on Him, willing to give up anything that we value at His command. That is what it means to have "heart."

"All our soul" means with all our life, being willing to surrender our lives to God, and devote it to His service. We will live for Him, and be willing to die if He demands that of us. We will not hesitate to surrender our lives, whatever they are, knowing that our souls are eternal, and our physical lives are temporary. We will value our eternal lives with Christ more than anything we could have in this life. We understand our souls in a new way because the Holy Spirit within us helps us to understand how much more important a spiritual life is, over an earthly life. We are ready to serve Jesus Christ at all costs.

"All our mind" means that we surrender our intellect to His will. We love His law and His gospel more than we value the decisions we make through our own minds and thoughts. Sometimes we are asked to submit to the Lord's teachings and guidance even when we do not fully understand them, and we place our minds in faith to Him.

Finally, as Mark and Luke teach us, these three words are held together by the words "with all our strength." We use both our souls and bodies to work for His glory. That is the object of all other efforts. We pray for strength, not so that we become self-important or more powerful, but so that we have the conviction to offer ourselves through our hearts, souls and minds.

Each of these terms expresses a related aspect of our faith, obedience, and commitment to the Lord. They all work together for good in the Lord's kingdom, with eternal consequences for how we use our mind and our faculties, our wills, our understanding, and our affections. Without God's grace, we would have no true love at all to offer God. The human mind and heart is naturally against God, but when we allow the Spirit of God to enter us, He produces perfections and the fruit of the Spirit. We can love Him in these ways only because He loved us first.

Image Credit: Eukalyptus; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father

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Published 11-21-16