The phrase "As a man thinks, so is he" comes from the KJV translation of Proverbs 23, which says:
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." ~ Proverbs 23:7 KJV
Contemporary versions of this scripture may be easier for modern Christians to understand:
"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, But his heart is not with you." ~ Proverbs 23:7 NKJV
"For as the thoughts of his heart are, so is he: Take food and drink, he says to you; but his heart is not with you." Proverbs 23:7 BBE
"Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you." ~ Proverbs 23:6-7 ESV
Meaning of 'As Man Thinks, So Is He'
This expression means that what someone says or does is not necessarily what they think in their heart. People may be courteous or polite but have contentious thoughts and sentiments. Ultimately, what "a man thinks in his heart, so is he." The book of Proverbs is known for such concise wisdom. People ruled by sin are influenced by the chief deceiver, Satan, and become deceivers themselves.
Understanding is one of the general virtues of Wisdom. He who has this virtue understands true life. A false life is the love of riches and gourmet dining (Proverbs 23:3). Poor people should never measure themselves to materially rich people. A false life is one of deception.
The source of instruction is Wisdom, who is Christ, our Teacher. If one gives his spiritual heart and ears to Him, he will be instructed by Him with words of perception, the crown of the virtues. To see, or perceive, life and ourselves as we truly are is essential to genuine repentance and seeking of God. The deluded man is blind to his own sins.
Bible Commentary on Proverbs 23
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. 8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words. (Proverbs 23:6-8)
Those that are voluptuous and given to appetite (v. 2) are glad to be where there is good cheer stirring, and those that are covetous and saving, that they may spare at home, will be glad to get dinner at another man's table. Therefore both are here advised not to be forward to accept of every man's invitation, but especially not to thrust themselves in uninvited.
Observe, 1. Some pretend to bid their friends welcome that are not hearty and sincere. They have a fair tongue and know what they should say: Eat and drink, saith he, because it is expected that the master of the feast should so compliment his guests; but they have an evil eye and grudge their guests every bit they eat, especially if they eat freely. They would seem to be liberal in making the entertainment and would have the credit for it, but they have so great a love for their money and so little for their friends that they cannot have the comfort of it, nor any enjoyment of themselves or their friends. The miser's feast is his penance. If a man is so very selfish, sordid, and mean that he cannot find in his heart to bid his friends welcome to what he has, he ought not to add to that the guilt of dissimulation by inviting them, but let him own himself to be what he is, that the vile person may not be called liberal nor the churl bountiful, Isaiah 32:5.
2. One cannot be comfortable accepting the entertainments given grudgingly: "Eat not thou the bread of such a man; let him keep it to himself. Do not sponge upon those that are bountiful, nor make thyself burdensome to any, but especially scorn to be beholden to those that are paltry and not sincere. Better have a dinner of herbs, and true welcome, than dainty meats without it.
Therefore," (1.) "Judge of the man as his mind is. Thou thinkest to pay thy respect to him as a friend, so thou takest him to be because he compliments thee, but as he thinks in his heart, so is he, not as he speaks with his tongue." We are that really, both to God and man, which we are inward, and neither religion nor friendship is worth anything further than as it is sincere.
(2.) "Judge of the meat as the digestion is and as it agrees with thee. He bids thee eat freely, but, first or last, he will discover his sordid covetous humor, and as he thinks in his heart so will he look, and give thee to understand that thou art not welcome, and then the morsel thou hast has eaten thou shalt vomit up; the very thought of that will make thee even to vomit the meat thou hast eaten, and eat the words thou has spoken in returning his compliments and giving him thanks for his civilities. Thou shalt lose thy sweet words, which he has given thee and thou has given him." (Excerpt from Matthew Henry)
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These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
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