Out of the abundance of the heart

Matthew 12:33-37
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.
34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It never ceases to amaze me how many Christians seem to enjoy passing along messages that attack our political leaders. It’s one thing to be critical of someone’s mistakes once we know they’ve done something wrong, but it’s quite another to accuse a person of something that is a vicious distortion of his or her intentions. And it seems no matter how much evidence is laid before some of these folks, showing them that their attacks are baseless, they still don’t hesitate to pass along the next mean-spirited message ridiculing our leaders or sending out false alarms about their intentions. To me, the sad part is that the people who are passing along these vitriolic messages lay claim to the title “Christian” and also claim they love their country. So where is Christ’s teaching in denigrating our leaders and distorting their intentions? Where is Christ’s love in those hateful attacks? “I’m just trying to warn people to be careful of trusting our leaders too much,” the attackers claim. Oh? Was President Bush our Savior? Was President Clinton our Savior? Is the Secretary-General of the UN our Savior? No, no, and no. We have one Savior and Lord, and He is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, and the yoke of His teaching is LOVE.

The apostle Paul wrote “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Many thus claim to praise our Lord Jesus, and yet…

James 3:8-12
8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Yes, as Solomon wrote, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) So what is the fruit that we ought to bear? In today’s verses, Jesus warns the Pharisees that what we say with our tongues is a sure indication of the state of our hearts.

We can, as Jesus says, “make the tree good and its fruit good,” but many choose to just let their tree be vile and rotten without ever trying to change it. They claim “It’s just my personality.” Is that so? Well, once upon a time it was Saul’s personality to persecute Christians and avoid a loving relationship with God. But the Lord Jesus came into Saul’s heart and transformed his life. From that time on, he became known as Paul, and his message plainly shows a changed heart ready to bear good fruit. How about Augustine or Peter Abelard, whose lives were completely changed by Christ? Many people down through the centuries have allowed their hearts to be transformed, turning them from lives of prodigal wastefulness into faithful fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. It’s not rocket science, and you don’t have to be a great theologian or “saint” to change the tree of your heart so it produces good fruit. What you need is faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus gave us a hint in verse 35 about how we can have good fruit: the treasure of our hearts. What do we treasure? What do we store up for ourselves? What do we horde and care about? What is piled up in the deep recesses of our hearts? We can have either good treasure–joy, faith, love, compassion–or we can have bad treasure–greed, distrust, hatred, envy, fear. What we have stored up in our hearts is what comes out of us in our most honest moments. Our true intentions shine not in those few moments of doing one good deed but in the way we live all the rest of our lives. So what treasure will we store up in our hearts?

We can store good treasures. How? We start by living out the Great Commandment–“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) What shape does that take? It should begin with a deep desire to know God in all His glory and majesty. Read and study the Word of God, so that you can know the facts of His love and forgiveness, His grace and mercy, His wisdom and compassion. Read the stories and learn the ideas, and discuss His Word throughout your day. As Moses told the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

His point is that the Word of God has to be a part of our everyday lives, not just something he hear or recite on Sundays. By making God’s commandments and statutes and judgments part of our daily lives, we store it up in our hearts. God’s Word becomes the treasure of our hearts!

But we cannot just store God’s Word for ourselves, we must also LIVE by it. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3, 8:1) The Bible is a guide for our lives, a way to understand God’s will for us, and a way to learn and to TEACH the gospel of Christ.

2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Once we learn the Scriptures, we must continue to live by them, allowing God’s Word to prepare us for doing good works. The treasure in our hearts becomes known to the world by what we DO and what we SAY. In the end, God will know all that we do in every second of our lives. To live a life of complete integrity, we must live by God’s Word every moment.

So what is the treasure of your heart? Is your treasure good, bearing good fruit? Or do others see vile fruit coming forth? Are our tongues leading us to gossip and slander? Or are we in command of our tongues to speak only “what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers”? (Ephesians 4:29) The test of the treasure of our hearts is in the words that we speak. Therefore, let our speech we full of the love and the grace and the glory of God and of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with the treasure of Your gospel, with the good news of our salvation, with the love of Christ Jesus Your Son. Fill us to overflowing, so that our lives exude Your grace and mercy. Let our lives shine forth and bring You only glory and praise. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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