“Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In the events leading up to this particular passage in Matthew Jesus has just driven a demon out of a demon-possessed man and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day have come out in public and said the Jesus is only able to do this through the power of the devil. Jesus’ first response to this is the one that we all know, and that we will discuss in detail when we get to Mark’s gospel. Jesus’ first response is to actually tell the religious leaders of his day that a house divided against itself cannot stand. But it is Jesus’ second response that is going to be our focus for today. Jesus told the religious leaders this as his second response to their belief that he was only able to drive out demons through the power of the devil, “For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.” (Matthew 12:34-35) Jesus here is telling the religious leaders of his day and us that your spoken words reveal the true nature of your heart.
James, the brother of Jesus who in all probability witnessed this confrontation, wrote these words later in his life:
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water. (James 3:1-12)
As we go through life we must remember Jesus’ last words from today’s passage. “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Genesis 39:1-41:16, Matthew 12:46-13:23, Psalm 17:1-15 and Proverbs 3:33-35