Have you ever heard someone say, “Hey, God knows my heart!” If so, it probably came just before or after the phrase, “Don’t judge me!”
Often when I’ve heard people repeat this quote of Jesus, that God knows their heart, they seem to be insisting that certain sinful behaviors are acceptable since God knows they are ultimately good people. I’ve heard that rationale given to excuse sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, racism, illegal drug use, and many other actions that God calls sin.
But how is the phrase ‘God knows my (your) heart(s)’ used in Scripture?
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. – Luke 16:13-15
Here in Luke 16, Jesus is trying to lead a group of Pharisees to repentance. In order to do this, first He must show them how their hearts are in rebellion toward God. Like millions of Western Christians, their hearts are devoted to the god of money because of the worldly power, influence, security, comfort and control it affords them.
But Jesus keeps pressing the issue. He tells these professing lovers of God that because they are so devoted to wealth, they neither serve God nor love Him.
And the Pharisees’ response to God incarnate's rebuke?
They scoff at Him. That word carries the picture of blowing your nose at someone. Utterly disrespectful and dismissive. Why would they do that? Because clearly, they know their own hearts better than Jesus does, right? So they tell Jesus to buzz off.
You can almost see them thinking to themselves, “Hey, You need to calm down, Jesus! Take that stuff somewhere else. God knows my heart!”
And Jesus, operating in the power of the Spirit says to them, “You’re exactly right! God does know your heart, and if you were thinking straight you’d be trembling rather than scoffing.”
What would cause someone who claims to love God to scoff at a warning and rebuke from Jesus? One of the early Christians gives us a clue as he comments on our passage:
It is written, “But the man that is proud and boastful shall bring nothing at all to perfection, who has enlarged his soul as hell.” And the Lord in His Gospel blames and condemns men of that kind, saying, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” He says that those are repulsive and detestable who please themselves. – Cyprian 250CE, Volume 5, p. 653 [CD-ROM]
Pride is a dangerous quality. God hates it. God opposes those who are characterized by it. It utterly deceives us. It convinces people to not seek God. It is a forerunner for destruction. And as Luke 16 describes, pride is behind the drive to constantly justify our sinful behavior in the sight of others.
If you sense pride in yourself, I want to encourage you to seek God’s remedy.
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:6-8
God gives special grace to those who humble themselves under His hand. And one of the most amazing blessings of grace that God offers to the world is to grant a brand new heart for those who will humbly receive His Son. Our almighty God can take a prideful, hardened heart and transform it into one like Jesus’.
If God can take the chief of sinners and turn him into a church-planting apostle who’s responsible for writing half the books of the New Testament, He can work an incredible turnaround in you as well! God knows your heart, and He also knows how to transform it into something beautiful!