“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. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 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. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NASB)
I read this passage and get a little anxious. I’m not that good at making sure my statements aren’t careless. It seems as though Jesus holds us responsible for how we are making the “tree.” We do have control of what kind of water we’re using, to an extent. God pours His and we pour ours. We nurture it, care for it, and give it good or cheap fertilizer. We put it in a green house or leave it out in the open to be used by the rest of nature. All the while, each act of “care” determines the quality of the fruit it’ll produce.
And we’re responsible. We’ve been given a tree to take care of. Some of us, lots more trees than just our own. But we do decide how we’re going to make it. You’d call me crazy if I saw an orange tree make apples or pears. That kind of craziness Jesus attributes to those who have been made holy found speaking unholy things. It’s unnatural. Not only that, those who are full blown evil make Truth an unnatural view for them.
After all this, Jesus uses an appropriate term toward the Pharisees who’ve approached Him. “Brood of vipers.” Think about it… A viper has fangs. The only thing that comes out of their mouths is venom. It swallows its victims whole. Pure evil cannot by nature speak good.
What it all boils down to is the heart. What do you fill it with? Where is your treasure found? What do you put worth on, value in? What fills us is what we value most. And if what we value most is good, then good is all that will come out. If what we value most is perversion, deceit, anger, bitterness, pain, revenge, malice, lust, or any other kind of evil, that’s what will come out. A viper is no different either. It fills itself with its prey. The only way it can go is down into it’s belly. What comes out of our mouths comes from the depths of our hearts, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. I find it scary.
Then, to top it all off, Jesus said we’ll be held accountable for what we say…every careless remark, every word of sarcasm, every word of praise and curse. It’s scary. Words are powerful. And often, we don’t take the time to think about what we’re going to say. We take everything in with our two ears or two eyes, process quickly with our brain, and before we take a moment to think, respond with our one mouth. Venom shoots out, we expose our fangs, and in the next moment, we swallow our victim whole.
I want it to be easier. I don’t want to have to deal with this. The world we live in is telling me to fill myself with more of what I want, more of me and my pleasures. My heart gets stuffy and I respond with a point of view that’s critical of others, that judges other out of envy and spite. Or I fill myself with pain. A selfish response to pain has a tendency to turn to bitterness as it sets in my belly. I get sick because I was quick too devour and didn’t pay attention to what I was swallowing. It was too big. I crammed it down my own throat. I then make myself the victim and through my words everyone gets hurt. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I know the difference between real pain and those who make themselves out to be the victim of things that were never directed toward them. I’m not talking about the former. When we’re selfish, we have a very difficult time viewing unfortunate circumstances in any other light other than our own. As a result, we hurt people. Our comments are sharp and pointed, stabbing at everyone around them. It becomes a warped view of self-defense, a defense that never needed to be built up.
The greatest question is this: What are you filling yourself with? What fills your heart? I desperately want to change. It’s my responsibility to make the tree good. God has changed my heart. He dwells within me. He does His work as I seek Him, as I learn to treasure good things. There’s no other way to make the tree good other than to spend time with the Good One. I can’t make any tree good without using the right kind of fertilizer and water. I need to get it in the right kind of atmosphere, still useable by the birds and as shade for anything else, but tapped in to the Living Water as its source of nourishment. Where’s our heart? What is it near?