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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Character of Sin > Out of the Heart 


For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mk. 7:21-22).

Sin originates on the inside and then finds expression on the outside; it begins in private before it displays itself in public.

Two phrases from the verses in Mark are instructive: “out of the heart” and “from within”; both of these focus on the inside of a person, rather than the outside. They teach us that the origination of sin is inward, hidden from view, and that later it is witnessed in outward conduct. The public acts that usually are identified with the essence of evil are initiated in private by the calculating and conniving attitudes of the heart.

“Heart” is mind; it is the thinking, reasoning, acting individual. Heart is a virtual synonym for the individual, the self; the “heart” is the “I,” the soul, the “me” (see: Nature of the Soul). The heart speaks of the inner self, the rational and volitional individual. Throughout the Bible the word is used of emotions such as hate (Ps. 105:25), pleasure (Eccles. 2:10), sorrow (Jo. 16:6), peace (Col. 3:15), and love (I Pet. 1:22)—in the heart these are found. And in the heart there is thinking (Est. 6:6), understanding (Job 38:36), purpose (Acts 11:23), and willing (Eph. 6:6). According to Scripture God knows the heart (I Sam. 16:7), meaning that God knows the person; so the heart and the person are identical.

The activities referenced in the last paragraph all transpire hidden from the view of the world; they cannot be seen and are unknown until they manifest themselves in visible actions or revealing words. In this unseen world of intellectual consideration and purposeful volition sin originates. No one is aware of the sowing of the seed and the germination of the evil, only the One who sees and knows all. Even the man cannot comprehend the workings and productions of his own heart, that is, the potentials of the hidden inner self (Jer. 17:9).

In the marvel of the mind is the mystery of evil—sin is a problem of the heart. How does sin commence? What initiates it? How is it possible? Answers are illusive and evasive. To know the origination of evil, one would have to understand the mechanism of the brain and the functioning of thought. The text simply affirms that “out of the heart” and “from within” evil arises. What more can be said? What more needs to be said? The mystery remains.

This profound fact—“out of the heart” and “from within”—localizes the root of evil and establishes the accountability for evil. Evil begins on the inside of man, and man is responsible for the evil that he initiates. This is to assert that evil is not some entity independent or separate from man, but evil is part of what man is, or what man has become subsequent to the Fall. Man and evil cannot be separated; where there is one there is the other. Man is a sinner and he sins. And because of both, his nature and his conduct, he is condemned before the holy God (see: Sinful State and Sinful Acts).

The public manifestation of evil is far greater than the private beginning of evil. Thoughts of evil in the mind of a Hitler cannot be visualized nor comprehended, but the materialization of the hidden ruminations give to the world the Holocaust. That which is incapable of viewing becomes that which no one desires to view; the public observation of the consequences of the private musing is shocking to everyone.

The inside cannot be kept private; it will become public. It may indeed be an extended period of time before the internal is revealed, but revealed it will be. Sin cannot be kept hidden; it seeks the light of day. “Out of the heart” and “from within” sin explodes into the public arena. Evil thoughts seek and find open expression.

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