Jesus is still with the crowd where we left Him with yesterday. The Pharisees have moved to back just a bit in the crowd, but have not left. They are busy nursing their wounds and grumbling among themselves. Jesus addresses the crowd but looks in the direction of the Pharisee group while speaking. His message specifically includes them but not them exclusively.
Jesus has talked about a tree and its fruit before. The people recognize His reference to a good tree bearing good fruit and a bad tree bearing bad fruit. But today He goes even deeper with His illustration and meaning. He essentially gets to the “heart” of the matter.
Jesus first calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Their mouths are full of venom. They are poison. They are to be avoided by all but the most skilled snake handlers because of the inherent danger they pose. The skilled snake handler’s responsibility is to milk the snake of its poison so as to create anti-venom to treat those bitten by the snake. Jesus was an EXPERT snake handler. He was inoculating His disciples and those listening against the poison the Pharisees were spreading. With some, the effects of their “inoculation” would take some time to manifest.
Jesus’ next remarks applied to everyone, even those of us living today. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak. So a heart filled with anger, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, greed, and self-pity; those are the things that will come out of the mouth. Hateful, angry, bitter words. Cutting words designed to destroy a person. But out of a heart filled with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and kindness; healing words will flow. Uplifting, compassionate, gentle words. Life giving words that build up a person. These are the words Jesus spoke, even when He was giving a reproof.
I believe Jesus knows the every person has times when anger or hurt enters our hearts. But what turns the heart, and the mouth, to evil is when that anger and hurt is “treasured.” When you dwell on the hurt, nurse it, continue to examine the events that helped shape it with such passion that the feelings take root and grow deep into the core of the heart. The anger begins to define your whole attitude towards others, and especially towards the person you feel is responsible for your hurt in the first place. You can’t help but speak the hate and anger that is now residing there.
Likewise, when forgiveness and love enter the heart, they too can have the same life changing effect. Recognizing that, you too, are in need of forgiveness. Examining the love poured out in and on your life; certainly by Jesus, but also by the family and friends He has provided for you. Feeding your heart memories of loving events and examining those times. By refusing to dwell on the negative times and even choosing to view the times of hurt from a different perspective. Was there actually a malicious intent or was hurt ascribed when none was intended? If hurt was intended, remove the opportunity for a repeat by removing the relationship if possible. If none was intended, repair the relationship through forgiveness and open communication by speaking words of healing into it.
I know Jesus didn’t get this detailed in His communication with those listening that day, but that is what I heard when I really listened today. This may be for my benefit only, but since this is kind of my diary, I think it is appropriate that I write what He speaks to my heart. Thank you, the reader, for indulging me for a while. Let’s get back to Jesus’ actual words in our reading today. They actually make the hair stand up on the back of my neck!
Jesus told the crowd, including the Pharisees standing a bit further back in the crowd, that for “every careless word they speak” they would have to give account of it on the day of judgement. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (verse 37). I know I have a LOT of careless words to repent for. I am also VERY grateful that He says He will forgive us our sins. I so much would like to make this mean the overall message of our words in our life, but that is not what Jesus said. He said “every careless word” (verse 36). That even includes my written words. Staying mute would be so tempting, except then I would run up against another moment in judgment when Jesus said, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). If I keep silent about Him, I am denying His work in my life and in essence denying Him.
Please Lord Jesus, help me strike a balance! I pray the words I share here will always glorify You, yet I know there will be times they don’t. Please forgive me. I also know that the words I speak in my home OFTEN fall short of glorifying You. They can at times be downright hurtful and cutting. Please forgive me!! I need to also ask those whom I have hurt with my words for this same grace (which I will be doing as soon as I finish here). My prayer is, “Set a guard, O Lord over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). I need Your Holy Spirit’s help here. I also need His help in rooting out all the anger, hurt, jealousy, and evil in my heart. Removing them will certainly make what comes out of my mouth sweeter! Lord Jesus, it’s time to do some serious cultivating again.