Monday, January 16, 2012
A Snake in the Grass
“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 speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The Set Up
I have a friend who for years has been telling me and many other that he is a Christian. So if we use the criteria above how would others know whether what he is saying is true or not? Jesus drops the analogy of fruit and words into the same paragraph, so I am taking this to mean that they are somehow linked. Jesus- talking to Jews in front of their very religious leaders is making a very poignant statement and you probably could have heard a pin drop in the dust until the "vipers" started hissing.
Good and Bad Trees and Fruit
If you have a tree that is diseased sometimes the only way you can deal with it is to tear it out and start over again. Sometimes you can treat it for a few seasons and bring it around. A good gardner or orchardist would know which trees have issues and be watching them. It goes without saying that a gardner is not thinking about ripping out a tree because it is producing good fruit though.
Evil People Exude Venom
It is also interesting to me that Jesus immediately goes from good and bad to words."How can you speak good, when you are evil?" Jesus was not looking for an answer here. So, think again whom He is talking to. These were men who quoted Scripture, were in church all the time, looked very religious and prayed in front of the masses anytime they had opportunity. Was Jesus saying that Scripture was bad? No. Was Jesus saying that going to church was evil? No. He must have been giving the idea that those "good things" coming from their mouths were tainted with venom- like they shouldn't be trusted.
Jesus' next words are "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." He is wrapping a lot of things into one paragraph; fruit, words and the heart. So, trees are known by their fruit, words and fruit are linked and both of those are linked to the heart. If the tree is bad it produces bad fruit, no matter what words are coming from it. Bad trees, no matter what they say can't produce "good" words. Jesus has to be telling us to watch out for people who look good, say things that appear to be good and yet are really snakes.
There is abundance in all our hearts. We become like what we love or Who we love and this fills up our hearts. If I love American muscle cars and I read about them all the time and go to car shows and have a couple in my garage, guess what, I am going to be talking about them a lot. Those cars are filling up my heart and out of the abundance of my heart I want to speak. It is not work for me to speak about those cars- it flows out of me. You can insert whatever is your fight; sports, food, sewing, books, movies, work or God.
A person who is truly a "good tree" will have abundance flowing out from their heart to others. The Word implanted and watered will be growing up into a fountain of living water and the outflow will be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as they are making melody in their hearts towards God. This is not work or effort- it just will come out. When something comes up it will often be directed back to God and His attributes and Word.
I digress for a moment- This is not some kind of manufactured love for God followed by religious pride, like the Pharisees and a quick way to tell is by where is the focus of the story. Is it "God did this even when I was not trusting" or "I had so much faith and I prayed for the last 20 years about this and finally I got what I asked God for"? Look at these 2 statements. "God is faithful" and "I just had to have faith".
We hear all the time- "Don't judge me"- but isn't this what Jesus is calling attention to right here in this paragraph? Wasn't He telling others to watch out for the "vipers" around them that said one thing and must have been doing another? Wasn't He calling them to be very careful around the snakes? He was saying all that as well as telling us to examine our own lives, hearts, fruit and words.
If "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" then shouldn't it be that if we are "good trees" bearing "Good fruit" that there should often be spiritual abundance coming from our lives and mouths?
Back to my friend. Saying you're a Christian without ever talking about spiritual things should be a red flag. If our hearts are to be overflowing and there is seldom overflow in spiritual things then I think we are getting the answer as to whether the tree is good or bad- no matter what the tree is claiming.