Have you been betrayed before? Maybe by an ex, a parent, or a friend, possibly a coworker. People are not consistent; they seem good and yet do something bad. On the other hand, even more sneakily they seem perfect so that what is inside them never sees the light of day. How can you tell?
Jesus spoke of this issue in Matthew 12: 33-37:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
He was speaking of the Pharisees, a legalistic group that kept strict rules to show how good they were. Yet Jesus saw right through them. He had worked miracles in front of them and they still wouldn’t accept that he was who he said he was.
Jesus pointed out their words and attitudes betrayed them, as the rotten fruit from an unhealthy tree shows the disease inside. Consider a celebrity with a good reputation who gets involved in a scandal when the truth comes out. It was there all along, now you realize something rotten was inside.
You can tell a lot about people from their words and motives. The motives could be seen as the fruit. There are two types of fruit: the fleshly and the Spirit (Galatians 5: 19-25). We tend towards satisfying our desires, hungers, putting something on a pedestal to focus our life on, hatred, jealously, power seeking and drunkenness to name a few. Of the list in Galatians, I have 11 on my record.
If someone’s motive is all about them, how can you trust them? Closer to home, do any of these indicate something dark inside you?
I will go into the spiritual fruit and then tell you the difference in how to fix the darkness. The common thought is it is impossible to live up to the rules within the Bible. It is true, only one ever did and he was God Incarnate. Consider this, of all the rules, here are the things that there are not a law against: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Could any of us find a fault in someone who lived like that? Much of the time, we struggle with just self-control or patience. It’s not out of grasp though. There is hope in the one who possessed all these inner attitudes.
What betrays that inner attitude is the tongue. James 3: 8 says that no one can tame the tongue. Have you seen anyone lose it and lash out? Or in a relaxed setting, they open up and say things you never thought they would? James 3: 9-10 says it’s wrong. That’s what Jesus meant in verses 34-35, from the mouth whatever is good or bad inside us will come out. We have to make ourselves good, like the good tree in the parable. How and is it too late?
Imagine that you were being recorded from the day you were born to now. Every word of every moment, played back. If you didn’t recognize your own voice, what would you think of the person you were listening to? Are they nice, or a jerk? Are they perfect?
Take a minute…think about it.
Jesus said we’d have to give an account of every word spoken. By them, you’ll be condemned or acquitted. We betray ourselves. What do you think the verdict will be?
Trees grow in soil naturally, and there are four types of soils that represent people (Mark 4: 1-20). We have the hard and impenetrable that grows nothing, the rocky and thin dirt that grows weak plants that die, the weedy soil that chokes plants off and they cannot produce, and the good soil that receives the seeds and grows good fruit. The seed is the Gospel – that Jesus came to die in our place – doing away with the old and bringing forth the new. Changing dead, bad, and weak trees into vibrant, healthy trees that produce the spiritual fruit.
How does it work? In John 15, Jesus reminds us it cannot be done alone. John 15:5 says that from that seed, we grow in Christ and by remaining in Christ, we can do it. C.S. Lewis said, “no man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”
I know this because I tried, and outwardly, it looked good, but inside I was in a battle against myself. Paul recognized it in Romans 7: 21-24:
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Who can save us from ourselves? Who can save you from yourself?
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:25
That tape recorder playing those condemning words at the end of time, with your eternal future on the line. You know someone has to answer for those words and the actions that went with them. It is you…unless at one point the tape player plays this; “I know I’m not right with you God (Romans 3: 10-18, 23; 6: 23).
Then it plays you confessing that under your leadership, you have messed up and that Jesus is now Lord. Because you believed he died to take the condemnation that your words revealed that you deserved. Then he rose again alive and new; then you will not be condemned.
These words playing on the recorder will acquit you and you will be saved (Romans 10: 8-13).
That trust in Jesus will save you. We worry about if others will betray or hurt us, and they will, people are fallen. Their words will betray them, and they will be held accountable. Our worry should be what our words betray about us.
Could you survive the scrutiny of your own words?