Summary: The words that come out of our mouth reveal what is in a person's heart, shows what that individual really is like.
There was an ad on the radio a while ago which proclaimed that "people judge you by the words you use." It was for a program that was intended to help you build-up your vocabulary. Now, it is probably true that many of us assume that someone who uses four- or five-syllable words in their conversation is very bright and intelligent, even if they don't really know what the words mean. For example, if I say, "I think promillienation would be good for our local economy," some folks would think I was a pretty smart fellow, even though I just made-up that word. On the other hand, if we hear someone say, "I don't got no time to do dat no more," we assume he is not a very bright fellow, though in reality he may be a nuclear physicist, with an IQ much higher than ours. We give an impression about ourselves to other people by the words we use.
What we say also tells God something about who we are. Of course, we can't fool Him like we can other people. This morning our journey through Matthew takes us to what I think is a very interesting part of Scripture. We are in Chapter 12:33-37. Here Jesus tells us that yes, the words we speak really are important. In fact, God will judge us based upon things we say. Matthew 12:36,37 "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Now, maybe that seems kind of scary, but I think the Lord has some important things to say to us in our text. Let's pray that He would help us pay careful attention to His words today.
Jesus is the One speaking in these verses, so let's start by looking at His message. First, He tells about trees and fruit. 12:33 "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." To make it clear, let's pretend Jesus is talking about apple trees. We are able to identify a good apple tree by the amount and type of apples it produces. If there are only a few apples on the tree and they taste really terrible, then we say it is a bad tree. "A tree is recognized by its fruit." But, it is not the apples which have caused the tree to be bad. It is the other way around. A bad tree makes bad apples. So, if we find some way to make the tree a good one, whether by pruning it or giving it fertilizer or water, then it will automatically produce good apples. The quality of the tree determines the quality of the fruit, and the quality of the fruit helps us determine the quality of the tree.
But Jesus is not giving a horticulture lesson. He is really talking about the relationship between character and words in human beings. 12:34a "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?" Now, calling people a bunch of snakes is obviously not a compliment. Maybe you are surprised that Jesus would use such language. But He is addressing the Pharisees in the crowd, and remember they are not very nice people. Just a few verses earlier, Verse 24, they had accused Jesus of being the devil Himself. It is these words to which Jesus is responding. But, He is not simply trading insults. These are religious, but very wicked, men who have done real harm to people's souls. Their words of blasphemy spoken against Jesus are intended to drive people away from Christ and the salvation He offers. "Brood of vipers" is a very appropriate label for them. 12:34,35 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." This last verse is a close parallel with Verse 33. Just as the quality of the tree determines the quality of the fruit, the quality of a person, what he or she is really like on the inside, determines what that person says and does. When Jesus speaks of the heart, He is not talking about the organ that pumps blood. Rather, He is referring to the center of human personality, who we really are. The words that come out of our mouth reveal what is in a person's heart, shows what that individual really is like. Thus, Jesus says that it is no surprise that false and evil words come from the mouths of the Pharisees. They are rotten on the inside, so we can expect rotten things to show up on the outside.