Jeremiah 17:9 and Self-deception

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.” I used to read this verse and cringe…and often in my youth  preached “hell fire and damnation” from it…but now I have the temerity to interpret it myself. I no longer think it means that we are scum buckets but it does mean that the “heart” is problematic and the reason is that it believes, by nature, only what it wants to believe. This verse is telling us that our heart can lead us but we must remember that, without a discerning spirit about us, it will usually mislead us as we are intrinsically wont to interpret things in a self-serving manner. Therefore, we can go ahead and “interpret” and make other judgments, but we just can’t be too smug and even arrogant about wielding our “truth” like a hammer. There is always more to the picture. And that is why we need others, and a spiritual context, to give us feedback about our interpretations.

And we must try to make sure they are not just like ourselves as that is not really feedback. We must think, and live, outside the bubble! Yes, history confirms there have been “desperately wicked” people and suggests there will continue to be from time to time. I suggest they they are those who are most enclosed in some “comfy” bubble, those that W. H. Auden had in mind when he noted, “We have made for ourselves a life safer than we can bear.”

Case in point—the Taliban in Afghanistan. How isolated and insular can you be? But, are we not guilty of the same, to some degree? Is that not the predicament of our two political parties, each dug in at the heels and unwilling to compromise, irresolutely sure of themselves? How insular and self-serving can you be when you make political decisions based primarily, if not wholly, on “Will this help me get re-elected?” There is reality outside of re-electability. There are things more important, such as the welfare of this country. And, the core issue is, “Do I believe in a reality (Reality) outside of myself?” Our culture often does not appear to and our politicians reflect our values.


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