Matthew 12:33-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
A Tree and Its Fruit
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 things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Continuing the theme from yesterday’s devotion, we hear Jesus talking once again about the fruit of our lives. In this passage, Jesus is in a rather heated conversation with the Pharisees (dedicated religious leaders of the day). The Pharisees are saying that the wonderful things Jesus is doing, the healing of the blind and deaf, the casting out of demons, is done by the power of “Beelzebul”, or the ruler of the demons. Jesus argues that this would be a “house divided against itself,” evil casting out evil, and says this is how the house would fall.
Then, in our passage for today, he continues to talk about the theme that we introduced yesterday. A tree is known by the fruit it produces. A person is known by the fruit he/she produces and that fruit is what we say and what we do. If the words we speak are kind and uplifting, that is good fruit. If the words we speak are true and honest and are spoken with humility, that is good fruit. Conversely, it is out of the evil in our hearts that comes vitriol, and judgment and condemnation. We will give an account for “every careless word you utter.” And, words lead to actions. Our actions often speak even louder than our words. Even “good, religious people” can produce rotten fruit if the tree doesn’t stay grounded in the life of Jesus. Jesus reserves his harshest critique for those who have such mean spirits in their hearts yet operate under so-called “religious values.”