No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Recently we have been looking at the section of the sermon that deals with the instruction not to judge others. Because of the amount of gossip that is normal in modern society, and is even encouraged by the scripts of many modern TV soaps, we are all very used to making judgements about others. But the real life truth is that such judgements are wrong in many ways. Firstly, the facts themselves can be wrong. But the biggest problem is that you are unlikely to be seeing the person in the way that the Father sees them, and certainly you are very unlikely to have as much love for them as the Father.
The text quoted above is quite a well-known passage of scripture, but I have to say that it is also a much abused portion of scripture. This is one of those scriptures that is used as a justification by Christians to make judgements about others. But stop and think for a moment. What were we taught in the scriptures immediately prior to this one? Think about it!
Jesus has only just finished talking and teaching about how we must not judge one another. Do you really think it makes any sense at all, therefore, for him to be saying the very opposite in the next verses? Of course not! These scriptures are NOT your permission to judge others, and to point out their bad deeds to your friends and to refer to such things as their ‘fruit.’
When considering the same scripture in Matthew, you may recall that there was much less description about fruit, and that it was in the passage of scripture referring to the false prophets, and to the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
In this passage in Luke, we have nothing about prophets or about people pretending to be what they are not. But we do have two main teachings to help us.
The first is simply to accept people for who they are and to recognise them for who they are. The second is about what is stored up in your heart.
I am going to be blunt here, and maybe you will not like what I will say next. But I feel that this scripture is an important warning for us to take heed of. Listen: there are those who see the bad in everything and everybody. They see demons and devils in everything. And in all things that they do not agree with, then the person in that disagreement must have been deceived by the devil. I think there is something here in these words of Jesus that speaks directly to such people.
I could try to argue that the size of an army is always smaller than the number of people that it is appointed to protect, and that only one third of the army of heaven rebelled to give us the demons and devils that plague the world. And that there simply is not the number of these beings to be in quite the prevalence that such negative-talkers seem to want there to be. But frankly I would be wasting my breath. Logic is not the answer to this. Jesus and his words are the answer.
In being blunt, I will say this: if only negative comes out of your mouth in this way, it is because there is only negative in your heart. What is it that is stored up in your heart? All kinds of thoughts about the devil and demons, and that we are fighting a losing battle against them.
What’s that? You disagree that we are losing? Then why speak with such fear and see these devils everywhere?
Simply put: Jesus has won the battle already! And if you are saved, then you are clothed in his righteousness and his strength. As the apostle Paul said: as he was, so are we in the world. So if you are walking in your salvation, then you are already victorious against the devil and all his minions. They will flee from you because they have been defeated. They will hide from you, and you have all authority against them.
And, quite frankly, there are better things to be placing in your heart and your thoughts. What you place in your heart affects what is spoken by the tongue. And in this passage, the fruit that is spoken of is related directly to what is spoken by the tongue. And the tongue has the power of creation and destruction.
It is not magic, it is not new teaching, but there are many scriptures that reveal these things about what we do with our tongues. Many scriptures to say that we speak out from what is stored inside. And many scriptures that, basically, say that we receive what we speak out – a ‘what you say is what you get.’
I really think that we need to guard our tongues so that we create only good things in our lives. Only good fruit. But think of the often used phrase, “I am tired of this…” or even, “I am sick and tired of…” Just stop and think for a while. Do you use these phrases? Do you feel tired all the time, or most of the time? Change the way you speak! Do you feel like you are open to sickness while you are so tired? Change the way you speak!
I am being serious here. There are good Christian books on this subject. One even has the title ‘What you say is what you get’, but I don’t remember the name of the author. But this is a scriptural principal and Jesus is reminding us of it here.
So what are we being taught?
First, guard over what things you place in your heart. The ideas and things that are important to you and that you think about a lot. Make sure that these are positive things that are heavenly treasures. Don’t fill your heart with devils and the minions of hell, but with the love of the Father as revealed in Jesus – and how to reveal his love to the whole world, including those you may think of as enemies. There is good advice from Paul in Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
If you can follow this advice, you will be storing the good and positive in your heart. And from the heart the mouth speaks – and the things you will speak if you have these good things in your heart will bring good fruit into your life.
So, the second is included in the first. Be aware of your speech. You may even be shocked at all the negative little things that are included. You may have all these little bits of gossip and judgement – and this will be returned back to you from the Lord, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing into your lap. So beware that judging tongue because this is one of the things that brings bad fruit into your life!
This is serious! And this is the reason that these teachings follow immediately after the teachings not to judge. Because if you are one who judges others – that very act is bad fruit, but more than that. You bring judgement on yourself in the same measure you gave it, and this is to bring bad things on yourself and your life. You will reap a bitter harvest of rotten fruit. Don’t you rather want to reap a joyful harvest of sweet and good fruit in your life? That which gives nourishment and health to you and to all who will be with you? You really have a choice here!
Remember, we are created in the image of god. Remember that the Psalms and Jesus remind us that we are ‘gods’ – in that we have the creative power in our words, prayers and faith. Yes – that mountain can be removed!! And yes, and sadly far more often, that molehill can be made into a mountain.