When God blesses Solomon, He does it by granting wisdom and understanding, but another thing is mentioned as well.
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore” (1 Kings 4:29).
This was connected to God blessing Solomon for rule. He was the king of an expansive kingdom, and he needed to have the big picture.
But the expression comes up a few more times in Scripture. In Isaiah, it is connected to the great influx of Gentiles into the new covenant.
“Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; Because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee” (Is. 60:5).
Then the psalmist mentions it. The one who has an enlarged heart is enabled to see what God is up to through His holy law. This is not the realm of petty legalisms — law-keeping by faith in the gospel of grace is the way of perfect liberty. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Ps. 119:32).
And last, those with largeness of heart are greatly misunderstood — but they are still effective for all that. The apostle Paul mentions that this was “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged” (2 Cor. 6:11). But he says this right after a listing a litany of conflicting experiences (vv. 4-10) — afflictions, tumults, floggings, honor, dishonor, slander, and so on. They were really famous nobodies.
Largeness of heart is rare. One of the reasons it is rare is that it provokes so much opposition. And yes, I know, don’t affirm the consequent. Not everything that provokes opposition is largeness of heart. But I repeat, one of the reasons is it rare is that courage is required.
So put these scriptural references together. Someone is in a position of leadership, and they have an expansive vision. They are eager to see the Church flooded with people who don’t have a clue. Largeness of heart cannot protect itself by keeping those people out in order to consolidate the previous gains. That is not protecting largeness of heart, but rather adopting narrowness of heart. Largeness of heart is large enough for all the late beginners who should have worked in the vineyard all day like us. Largeness of heart is given over to the absolutely authority of God’s word. And, following the apostle Paul, because it is easy to misrepresent, it must be willing to be misrepresented.
What does narrowness look like? Look at these four characteristics, and flip them around. Narrowness is provincial, stuck with a little in-group. It is content with the current numbers, because any more would “change the dynamic.” It is not interested in what the perfect law of God has to say. And last, it is obsessed with being understood.
In an oxymoronic way, largeness of heart is outnumbered by all the tiny hearts. But that doesn’t matter because largeness of heart is . . . large. In our time, one of the things that largeness of heart must be able to do is identify the zeitgeist, see the trends, and identify the necessary ways that we are called to stand contra mundum. Some of the trends are inane, some are a nuisance, and some are deadly. Declare holy war, and leave the vindication to God. Ironically, this is how leadership works. Bucking the trends is a way of setting the right kind of trend. Solomon was not given largeness of heart so that he would be the only one in Israel to know what was going on. No, largeness of heart is a gathering force.
But it has no patience with those who would seek to gather us according to false principles. We are to gather around the Word and sacrament, around a proclamation of Christ and Him crucified. We do not gather around food choices, metrosexual dress, soft leftism, hair gel, secular right-wing dingery, hot chocolate with pajama boy, health mania, mammon stocks, endless war, anti-Americanism, or any other idols we might have on our god shelf.
You can tell those who are narrow of heart when they read a list like this and ask, somewhat belligerently, whether I believe it is a sin to drink hot chocolate, take vitamins for your health, or dress like pajama boy probably does. The answers to those questions are, respectively, no, no, and yes. The issue is idolatry, not stuff. Sin has to do with what the heart is doing, and narrow hearts can almost never see what they are doing.
I have a friend who has this largeness of heart I am talking about. And when it is in evidence, one of the indicators is the kind of reaction he gets (not that there is a reaction). One reaction is that of lamenting the breakdown of our cultural engagement, as though engagement means drifting with the current. This idea of cultural engagement is throwing an evangelical styrofoam cup into the river at Vicksburg in the hope that it might make its way to the Gulf of genteel compromise and mutual acceptance.
So how can you tell? Suppose you are having trouble figuring this stuff out. Look to your leaders, who are teaching you the Bible. Consider the outcome of their way of life (Heb. 13:7, 17). Do their kids laugh? Do they have the right kind of bright in their eyes? Is their home the kind of place where someone is baking spiritual bread all the time? Does it smell right? Listen to them. “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14, ESV).