The Calloused Heart

Part 1 – chained…

Some years ago, I served as a volunteer for a dog rescue organization.  I helped with transporting dogs to foster homes, picking up donated dog food from stores and also did some fostering myself.  If you’ve ever fostered stray dogs before, you know that life can become a circus pretty quick. Each dog that came to me was unique in that I just didn’t know what I was going to get.  Some dogs had been physically abused and came to me afraid and reserved. Other dogs had been chained up on a short leash for years and came to me aggressive and mean.  Other dogs have been loved, cared for and properly trained since puppyhood and were well mannered, loving pets. However, the challenge often came when we tried to socialize the dogs with each other. Depending upon the dog, sometimes socializing them was a good thing and sometimes it was a disaster. I’ve learned that too often, people are just like this.  Some of us have been abused, some of us have been ‘boxed up’ and some of us have been taken advantage of – creating some very interesting scenarios when we try and socialize with others – just like with the dogs.

Have you every known someone who seemed to be perpetually negative – a big grouch?  Nothing seems to make them happy. Even when ‘good’ things happen to them, they will always find something to complain about. They act like the mean dog living down the street that you try to avoid or sneak past every time you walk by the house. Ever wondered what in the world could have happened to make them that way?

In Matthew 13, Jesus begins a very challenging dialogue about the condition of our hearts.  He explains how we can become people prone to being unkind, uncaring, pitiless and cruel – and the resulting consequences:

Matthew 13:14-15

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 
For this, people’s hearts have become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts 
and turn, and I would heal them.’

To paraphrase the above verses – the people’s hearts had become calloused toward God, life and others; causing them to no longer be able to understand the things of God and be able to receive from Him.  Ouch!  Jesus is talking specifically to people who at one time were hearing, receiving and learning about God and His plan for their lives, but due to difficulties, circumstances and issues that arose, their hearts became calloused.

So, what is a ‘calloused’ heart anyway? How can I tell if I or someone I know might have one? The ‘signs’ of a calloused heart include being heartless, unfeeling, coldhearted, uncaring, insensitive, unsympathetic, cruel, pitiless, ‘hard’ or ‘thick-skinned’.  Sound familiar?

In several other translations/versions of the bible, the phrase in verse 15, ‘people’s hearts have become calloused’ has been translated from the original text to also mean – ‘minds that are dull’… “blockheads”… “their hearts are hardened”… “people have become stubborn”…

Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘calloused’ as being selfish, unemotional, showing no sympathy, merciless and desensitized.

On the contrary, the person who keeps their heart from becoming calloused is warmhearted, affectionate, loving, kind, compassionate, merciful, gracious and sympathetic.

Like a dog that’s become mean and vicious from being chained to a short leash, we can also become mentally and emotionally ‘chained’ to our problems, issues and difficulties – causing our hearts to become calloused and limiting our ability to see, hear and understand the things of God.

Coming Next

The Calloused Heart – Part 2 of 3:  God crops


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