Have you ever eaten baby back ribs and encountered gristle? If you have, you’re probably already thinking about how chewy, slippery, and unpleasant it is. If you haven’t encountered gristle, it’s the white, tough bit of cartilage that can sometimes be found in different cuts of meat that seems to have more in common with rubber than anything that should ever find its way onto a dinner plate.
I remember biting into a piece of it when I was a kid and it instantly made me lose my appetite. I can still feel the texture of the gristle in my mouth in contrast to the tender, delicious meat I had been enjoying moments before.
It’s useless, too! It adds nothing to the flavor of the meat and seems to exist only to frustrate your enjoyment of a nice meal.Gristle is the worst.
And as I read the words of Psalm 119:69-70 I can’t help but think of the unpleasant parts of meat, like fat and gristle. Read these verses of Scripture and see what I mean:
“The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law” (Psalm 119:69-70 ESV).
In this verse, the Psalmist is contrasting two types of hearts: the heart of the righteous man, which keeps God’s laws, and the heart of the unrighteous man, which is unfeeling and…fatty? Yes, the Scripture compares the heart of the unbeliever – the one who does not follow God’s laws – to unfeeling fat.
Let’s ponder this comparison for a moment. Think about a steak – what parts of it do you enjoy? The tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth meat? Or the tough, chewy, greasy piece of fat on the end? Or think back to the baby-back ribs in the introduction - what do you like more? The rich, saucy meat? Or that chewy, useless piece of gristle?
Or, to think about it another way – picture the human body and the contrasting nature of fat and muscle. What part of our makeup does the grunt work? What do we constantly want to build up and make stronger? And what are we constantly (much to no avail) trying to lose?
Typically, fat is not a term used to paint something in a positive light. That’s no different here. The Psalmist describes the heart of the one who refuses to obey God’s commands as fatty – as rubbery, tough, unfeeling, and stubborn. Gristly. It is a heart that refuses to submit to the Word of God and is in rebellion against the Creator.
The Psalmist is describing the heart of the unbeliever, but lest we as believers think we are off the hook when it comes to having fatty hearts, Hebrews tells us otherwise. Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (ESV).
Christians too are in danger of cultivating hearts that are evil, unbelieving, and yes, fatty. The entire Christian walk is a fight to have a heart like the Psalmist, which delights in the Law of God, rather than having a heart like the unbeliever, which is hard and impenitent and hates God’s Law.
The world, our flesh, and Satan himself are all fighting to fatten our hearts with things that numb us to the Word of God. They fight with entertainment, with counter-Christian worldviews, with material things, and even with our own desires. Each time we give in to temptation and sin, we are allowing our enemy to add a layer of fat to our hearts. If we aren’t careful, we can build up layer after layer without even realizing it and soon enough, our hearts are more rubbery gristle than life-giving flesh.
How do we fight against this? How can we prevent our hearts from becoming fatty, evil, and unbelieving?
Simply put, we employ the means of grace that God has graciously provided us.
We read the Word. We pray. We gather together with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. We partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Oftentimes, it is tempting to try and find the answer to living the Christian life. The key, the central truth, the go-to way to be sanctified. We read books and seek answers to our question of how to be godly all the while neglecting the means of grace that God has given us to grow. Our hearts grow fatty as we ignore the very things God uses to change us.
Don’t let that be you today, Christian! Take up the Word of God, kneel down and seek Him in prayer, and don’t skip out on church this Sunday – even if lately it hasn’t felt like much. Don’t ignore the means of grace God has given you and allow your heart to become fatty and unfeeling. Cultivate a sensitive, tender heart that is in tune with the Word of God so you can declare with the Psalmist that you delight in it!
Do you struggle with cultivating a tender heart? Do you think your heart is currently more fat than muscle? In what ways has God been using the means of grace to soften your heart lately? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter! And don't forget to hit that subscribe button below, you'll receive more posts like this one delivered right to your inbox!