36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
“Incline my heart”
That is Grace.
Grace is a real, tangible experience. It’s “the Divine influence upon the heart.”1
What a simple, but overwhelming thought - that God would influence your very heart. Your desires, your attitudes, your love and affection, your identity. The core of who you are.
It’s hard for me to admit, and sometimes hard for me to even relate to who I used to be - but at one time my heart was in fact inclined to covetousness.
By any definition, I was a thief.
I was constantly looking for opportunities to take advantage of vulnerabilities - especially when the theft would be “victimless” in my mind. Downloading music or movies illegally, walking off with items from large organizations that “wouldn’t feel the loss” - covetousness brought thousands of dollars of goods into my possession that I did not earn.
And then I remember the very moment that God inclined my heart away from covetousness and toward His word. I was just reading the Bible one day, and came across this verse::
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ Phil 3:8
I was astonished at those words. Paul was saying that he lost everything - but he counted it as rubbish. (The King James version says “dung.”)
I looked up, and looked around my apartment at all of the things I had. And it was amazing - suddenly it was as if everything I had ever stolen was highlighted, and everything else was dull and muted.
In that moment, something changed in my heart.
I encountered the Grace of God that influenced who I am fundamentally as a person. It purged out of me the old nature of a thief, and deposited in me the seed of the very Life and nature of Jesus.
God is not so much interested in external results as He is interested in your heart. God knows that if He gets your heart, the behavior will follow naturally, effortlessly.
That is one of the key fundamental differences between the Law and Grace. The Law demands that you change your behavior to please God, but it does nothing about that inward nature, in this example that of a thief. Grace gives you new heart that is free from covetousness, and instead trusts in the provision of a Loving Heavenly Father, and actually leads you to be a giver instead of a taker.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
And this marvelous grace is made available to us because of the Cross:
...knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Rom 6:6
So I say, with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.”
For further reading, see the story of Zacchaeus - a man who was a thief, had an Encounter with the Lord, experienced an inward change of the heart, which was followed by an outward change of behavior. Pay special attention to when Jesus entered Zacchaeus’ home. Was it before his heart changed, or after? The story is found in Luke 19
Footnote 1: See Strong’s definition for grace, (“charis”) here.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.