Read Jeremiah 17:9
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it? (NIV)
We can form two wrong conclusions about the human heart. One is to believe that deep down all people are pretty good except for a few obvious evildoers. We only need better education, or better health, or better government to overcome whatever shadows might linger in our hearts.
Then again, we can go to the other extreme and conclude that all people are fundamentally wicked and utterly incapable of any virtue. Which flies in the face of reality. We all witness many good and helpful acts done by people of all faiths and no faiths. Our text today may point in that direction.
But it doesn’t deny the reality of goodness imparted by what we call the common grace of God. We would expect people made in God’s image to retain something of that image, impaired though it might be. This text reminds us that we can deceive ourselves and others. And we in and of ourselves cannot remove the taint of egocentricity and corruption that lurks in even the best of hearts.
The Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the middle of every human heart. We are capable of much good and much that is not at all good. We have divided hearts.
Our text asks who can understand the human heart. The answer is that only its maker can do so. He sees what is wrong with it and offers to put it right. So much of Christian discipleship is about the mending of such broken and divided hearts.