Matthew 12:33-45 (ESV)

33 “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. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus compared people to two types of trees: good trees that bore good fruit and bad trees that bore bad fruit. The fruit produced revealed the type of tree. Then Jesus drew a parallel between the heart and what people speak or say. He rebuked the Pharisees for failing to recognize the Holy Spirit’s work and exposed the reason for the harsh words they spoke against him: their hearts were evil. Jesus repeated the words “good” and “evil” multiple times as he explained that what comes out of the mouth is consistent with a person’s character. What a person does reflects who she really is. Jesus went even further by warning that people’s spoken words will play a critically important role in God’s final judgment. Of course, Jesus wasn’t saying that our words are the only thing that will matter in the end, or that all mutes will be justified apart from Christ. But he did say God takes our words very seriously since they are intimately interwoven with whom we really are.

The heart was considered the center of the person or the inner man; it encompassed the emotions, the intellect, and the will. Just as the Pharisees’ words were driven by what was in their hearts or their characters, so our inner person drives what crosses our lips. Even the thoughtless or the careless words we speak are a reflection of whom we really are. We often hear people excuse their sin by saying, “Well, God knows my heart.” Although this is true, God does know our hearts, even better than we do, Jesus would add, “And people can get a good estimate of your heart too based upon the words you speak.” In our natural state, we all have issues with our hearts. So for anyone who is not a Christian, “God knows my heart” should be a terrifying thought. Not one heart will prove wholly good before the Lord. This is why we all desperately need Jesus. But everyone in Christ has been given a new heart, called a heart of flesh and not stone. Because we have been graced with new hearts, we need to make sure our words reflect the work that God has done in us. May we care as much about what we say as God does, and ask the Holy Spirit to keep our speech right and pure.