In an era Cancel Culture and massive overflow of words (particularly on social media platforms) colliding to wreck relationships, employment and reputations, it seems the concept of everyone having to “give an account for every careless word they speak” is readily embraced. Jesus concludes that statement from Matthew 12 saying, “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Sounds about right. Say something that goes against what is acceptable, and wham! Next thing you know you’re being ousted from your job, your platform, your position, etc. Canceled. However, when we look at all the people being “condemned” for what they have said, whether 40 minutes, 40 years or even 240 years ago what we’re seeing is harsh judgement being pronounced by a fickle and merciless court of public opinion (CPO). A terrifying example of this is if I got on national TV and said just twenty years ago that cross-dressing men all over the nation should be allowed frequent and taxpayer-funded interactions with small children in a thinly veiled attempt to normalize deviant sexual behaviors and lifestyles, I would have been condemned and punished by the CPO – and rightly so! However, today, I run the risk of being summarily condemned (bring it on!) for saying these predators should be at the very least prevented from any contact whatsoever with our vulnerable children, if not arrested and incarcerated, and that those who have allowed them access to our kids should also be punished. In the course of two decades, the “laws” of the CPO have changed drastically, and what was evil is now called good, and what is good is now called evil (sounds like Isaiah 5:20 … and woe to us!)
However, the Judge Of The World (JOTW) is not like the CPO. He does not change, nor do His laws. What has always been good is still good and will always be good, and the same is true for evil. Furthermore, Jesus has some words for those who only pretend to be on the “good” side. He says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad … How can you speak good when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (emphasis mine). We are told by our culture to “follow your heart,” and, in a way, that’s what Jesus is saying to do – but not to achieve self-actualization or inner peace. Rather, this is a call for those who are evil to be honest about it, and for those who know and love Him to set themselves apart. In other words, to be holy. In the context of Matthew 12, Jesus was confronting the religious leaders of the day who were fakes, a “brood of vipers” as he called them, but this concept applies to all of us. If we give vent to our hearts, what is going to come out of our mouths? Will our “trees” be shown to be good or evil and by whose definition?
The CPO wields an inordinate amount of power over us, and we have to ask ourselves, “Do I care more about the CPO, or about the opinion of the JOTW?” We see the headlines of yet another person being ruined for something they said that crossed the ever-moving lines vigilantly policed by the ruthless and violent CPO, so it’s easy to do what we can to bend and maneuver with our words and stances in order to appear to bear the kind of fruit the CPO is demanding of us. However, given the fact that Jesus said “On the day of judgment people will give an account…” we should be far more concerned with making sure the fruit we’re bearing is the kind the JOTW calls “good.”
There are three significant takeaways from this punchy paragraph of Scripture:
1. There is indeed “good” and “evil” fruit (as defined by God, not the CPO)
2. We can only bear one or the other
3. We will be justified or condemned on the final judgement day by the JOTW
Therefore, it really matters – eternally – if our heart is full of good or evil, and what comes out of us will reveal which one it is (verse 34). Of course, the only way for our hearts to be truly good is for them to be changed by the power God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The prophet Jeremiah talks about how God is the one who takes out our evil hearts of stone and puts within us good hearts of flesh that are alive in Christ. If you have a “good” heart, pray the Lord will fill you with joy, hope and boldness to make your heart overflow with good fruit to the glory of God and the benefit of your neighbors. If you don’t yet have a good heart (by God’s standard), then pray for Him to give you a good heart so you, too, can bring Him glory both now and forever.