GIGO theory: Proverbs 23:7

I explained the “GIGO doctrine” in a previous post, and said that several of the verses used to support it are taken out of context. The most seriously misinterpreted one is Proverbs 23:7. Here is Proverbs 23:6-8:

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, “Eat and drink!”
But his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten,
And waste your compliments.

The important phrase for our purposes is “as he thinks within himself, so he is.” The GIGO teaching uses this to establish the principle that whatever we think about we soon become. If we think about sin, we will soon begin to do it. If we think about godly things, we will soon begin to do those.

What does the phrase mean in context? The point of the passage is that if a man is selfish, you should distrust his generosity. Even if he says to you, “eat and drink!” you should realize that he doesn’t mean it. His heart is not with you. As a matter of fact, he is not at all the man he pretends to be. The man he really is is shown by what he thinks privately to himself, in thoughts he keeps hidden from the rest of the world. As he thinks within himself, that is the real man.

In other words, these verses do not teach that as we think, we shall become; they teach that whatever we already are will govern how we think. It is almost the exact opposite. It is not that thinking determines character, but that character determines thinking. This doesn’t say that our thoughts change who we really are, but it certainly says that our thoughts reveal who we really are.

This applies to the issue of GIGO, but not the way most people expect. It explains to me why I have the thoughts I do. Do I think selfish thoughts? Then it means I am a selfish man. Do I struggle with thoughts of revenge? Then I am angry, at some level. Do I worry all the time? Then down deep, I do not trust God. Freud would have said that the subconscious keeps injecting its desires into our conscious mind. Jesus simply said, “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” This verse says something more like, “Out of the heart, the mind thinks.” Who we are in our hearts will keep showing up in what we consciously think about.

This explains why sometimes it is relatively easy to change our conscious thoughts and sometimes extremely hard. When we get our hearts right on an issue, it is just a matter of discipline to begin to think according to new patterns. If we haven’t dealt with things at the heart level, we can struggle for years and never really gain mastery over our thought life.

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