33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
One problem we encounter in our reading and studying of our bibles is that the text gets broken up into titles, subtitles, chapters, and verses. These are designed to help us understand the text and reference it well, but sometimes it becomes a stumbling block. Depending on the version you are reading and the publisher, today’s referenced passage might be separated from the previous. Jesus has been on a rant against the Pharisees and this is a part of His discussion. Previously, Jesus talked about the unpardonable sin and has flowed into how we talk. The connection is that out of our hearts flow our words. If our heart is set against the Spirit, then so will our mouth. The blasphemy against the Spirit is not a verbal action, but a heart-level one.
We deceive ourselves with proper speech, good deeds, and faithful homage to our religion but continue to sin against God in our hearts. Jesus exposed this issue in His Sermon on the Mount, but continues to be His main teaching point against hypocrisy. How many times have we heard someone say, “so-and-so is a good person, they go to church”? So, our measure of being good or not is if we go to church…seriously? The Pharisees went to church more than anyone else and Jesus is telling them they are the worst kind of sinners! Going to church doesn’t automatically move you into the “good person” category, having a relationship with Jesus does. Going to church helps you in that process, but it isn’t the blanket solution.
Jesus tells us that we will know a tree by its fruit; He is saying that each person will be known by their actions. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, we can discern (notice I did not say “judge”) if someone is a follower of Christ or not. However, we also twist this and begin acting the way we “should” while our hearts are still evil. Think back to what Jesus said at the end of His sermon in Matthew 7:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
He is talking about people who “did good” but never really loved Him. How many of us are careful in what we say in certain circumstances, especially in church or in front of the pastor, but still think and feel the words? Are we any better because we didn’t cuss in church on Sunday morning but do it later in the afternoon when our football team loses? Let’s not be deceived that even our “good” actions may not flow from a good heart, rather a deceitful one that is trying to impress man. God made it very clear that the most important element of our being is our heart condition. Consider what God said to Samuel as he was called to anoint God’s next King (who turned out to be David) when Samuel was trying to guess in 1 Samuel 16:
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
As the Lord looks at your heart today, what does He see?