The righteousness of the kingdom of God, the renewal of the reborn heart, means singleness of heart. The heart can be compared to an inner eye which is focused on God alone (Matt. 6:22). If your inner eye is really concentrated on God, you cannot have a fortune, nor can you have any worries either. Instead you will grasp that to call upon God is to trust in his love. To pray is to plead for God’s dominion (Matt. 6:5-13). It is to do his will and hallow his name. It is the gift of daily bread, spiritual as well as temporal. With this clear inner eye, you will have new, loving hearts, free from evil and the rule of violence, free from the temptation and trials that will shake this world right up to its last hour. In this way call upon God.
This love for God means love for all people, for God loves all and his heart is directed toward all. He is merciful to all and lets his sun shine on all and gives his rain to all (Matt. 5:45). A person who through the love of God has experienced new birth cannot judge anyone else; we must have faith for everyone. Jesus tells us: Do not judge others; love them (Matt. 7:1). Judgment means passing a final, conclusive verdict. This you must never do. Love’s hope and faith’s trust must always leave open the way to return home, to be saved for God’s kingdom.
Deeds reveal the character of the heart. If the heart is not clear and undivided – “single,” as Jesus puts it – then it is weak, flabby, and indolent, incapable of accepting God’s will, of making important decisions, or of taking strong action. This is why Jesus attached the greatest significance to singleness of heart, to simplicity, unity, solidarity, and decisiveness. Purity of heart is nothing other than absolute integrity, which can overcome desires that enervate and divide. Determined single-heartedness is what the heart needs in order to be receptive, truthful and upright, confident and brave, firm and strong.
The first part of this article is adapted from “The Jesus of the Four Gospels,” Plough Quarterly (Summer 2014). The original talk from May 13, 1934, can be read in our digital archive.
The second part is adapted from Inner Land, vol. 1, The Inner Life (Walden, NY: Plough, 2019).