I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples. In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now.
“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” (v. 33).
This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right; by its apples. Jesus continues,
“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).
Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.” Jesus goes on to explain,
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).
Let’s break that down from the top.
Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.
Hockey Puck Apples
Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.
From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close. And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.
Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.
We Need a Heart Transplant
But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,
“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.
Jeremiah 17:9 says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)
We’re told our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.
Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves or garbage dumps. Each of us can only produce whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you need a new heart.
And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).
So I need to ask: What are your words telling you about your heart?
Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant.