Topic: Known by Our Fruit [Saturday February 4, 2017]
[Jesus said] Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and its fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and its fruit rotten (diseased and bad); for the tree is known and recognized and judged by its fruit. You offspring of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil (wicked)? For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks. — Matthew 12:33-34
A woman I'll call Dorothy knew more about the church and every member and visitor than anyone else did. She was fairly well-known as the church gossip. "One thing about her," a friend said, "she's not prejudiced; she talks about everyone," and he laughed. He also added, "She'll probably get into heaven, but God may have to cut off her tongue first."
One day as I stood near the front door, I heard Dorothy telling several people about one of the deacons, "But it isn't up to me to judge him," she said. The venom poured from her mouth, and she went on to mention several others. Of course, she was critical of each one.
I listened to her and realized something. She was only speaking from what was already inside her heart. That's obvious, but I grasped something else. Dorothy was so critical of herself, so filled with disgust for herself, how could she speak well of others?
Too often people make promises that they'll speak better of others and gossip less. They really try, but nothing ever changes. This is because they are trying to change their words without changing their thoughts. That's a bad solution, because they start at the wrong end. What they need to do is look inward, asking, What is going on inside of me?
"For out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks," Jesus said. As I considered those words, I felt a deep compassion for Dorothy. She had allowed Satan to fill her mind with critical, harsh thoughts. She didn't speak much about herself, but I'm sure she was totally critical of herself as well as other people, and when she spoke, the evil words came out of her mouth.
Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. The same is true of our lives. Everything begins with a thought. If we allow negative and unkind thoughts to fill our minds, they bear fruit. If we dwell on the bad, we produce bad fruit.
As we observe people, it's easy to see the fruit of their lives. They show either good fruit or bad. It's that simple. But the fruit is the result of what's going on inside. We can learn a lot about a person's character simply by listening to their conversation. The more loving our words and actions are toward others, the more loving and kind our thoughts will be.
If I believe God truly loves me, and if I enjoy fellowship with Him every day, I'm planting good seeds in my own heart. The more good seeds I plant, the more good fruit I produce. The more I think kind and loving thoughts, the more I see others as kind and loving.
"Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks." Kind or judgmental words don't just come to us. They come out of our mouths because we have nurtured them in our minds. The more we open ourselves to the Spirit's positive and loving thoughts, the more we pray. And the more we read God's Word, the more good fruit we produce on the inside. That good fruit shows itself by the way we behave toward others.
Dear loving and forgiving God, I ask You to forgive me for all the harsh things I've said about other people. Also, please forgive me for allowing harsh thoughts to fill my mind about myself or about others. I know I can't make myself more loving, but You can. Please, help me focus on healthy, positive thoughts, for I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.