Ethics & Christian living

‘Guard your heart: the wellspring of life’

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

Our physical hearts are both vital and vulnerable. Our lives depend on our hearts pumping blood around our bodies. Unless we are careful our arteries can become blocked, blood pressure can rise and hearts can fail.  In a literal sense, our hearts are the spring of life within each of us.

Deepest core

But ‘the heart’ is also regularly used as a metaphor to represent the deepest core of ourselves. This is the way that the writer of Proverbs uses it in the verse above.  Our hearts represent our deepest commitments, the axis around which we spin, the source from which all else flows.

And this deep core must be protected and nurtured. We must be dedicated and focused on its health because our lives and destiny depend on it. The writer of Proverbs tells us to:

  • Pay attention
  • Turn our ear to these words
  • Not let them out of our sight
  • Keep them within our heart


The last few weeks have been a busy time as I started my new job. And the need for me to ‘guard my heart’ has been very real.  I need to spend time drawing on the deepest resources if I am to maintain my soul in good health.  And the best re-sources come from the source itself. 

I read this in Simon Small’s book From the Bottom of the Pond:

‘Many people seek to live good lives. They strive to help others, to be humble and live ethically. Admirable as this is, however, it is not in itself the spiritual path. Spirituality is about relationship, but not in the first instance relationship with other people.  It is about relationship with the depth of existence, the source of all, the Mystery from which all things come and to which they return. All other relationships, whether with people or any other aspect of creation, are but expressions of this one, primal relationship.’

An organisation’s heart

And this is relevant beyond just individuals. I have also been struck by the concept of ‘guarding the heart’ of charities because they are often especially vulnerable. Often, despite the Christian faith being the original heart of the work, a transplant often takes place.  Spiritual commitments are often jettisoned and replaced by the demands of good practice, funding and regulation.

So it is just as important to ‘guard the heart’ on a corporate and organisational level. The founding faith and values on which work is based is the wellspring from which everything has flowed.  Too often there is an assumption that we can continue to produce fruit when we neglect the root from which it has grown.


A key link between the personal and the organisational is the role of leadership.

If leaders ‘guard their hearts’ and remain self-aware about what they need to remain spiritually and emotionally healthy, then they are more likely to lead organisations which do the same.  There is nothing more important that leaders can do than show a good example.

So with this in mind, I will end with a quote sent to me this week by a colleague which is from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership.

‘The market is glutted with books on leadership, and many contain contradictory messages…But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.’

Let’s guard our own hearts and the hearts of the causes we work for, for they are the wellspring of life. And may the bread we offer others still be warm from the oven of our own intimacy with God.

4 thoughts on “‘Guard your heart: the wellspring of life’”

  1. That was a lovely and deep thought. Thank you for sharing. Lots of to think of in terms of finding the heart of the spiritual instead of corporate etc.


  2. Thank you Jon, as we approach end of shelter season and look to away days and planning for the future, this couldn’t have come at a better time for me to chew on. Bless you!


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