Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 6:43-45 (Voice)
43 Count on this: no good tree bears bad fruit, and no bad tree bears good fruit. 44 You can know a tree by the fruit it bears. You don’t find figs on a thorn bush, and you can’t pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 It’s the same with people. A person full of goodness in his heart produces good things; a person with an evil reservoir in his heart pours out evil things. The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart.

There are few more challenging passages in all of scripture than this seemingly benign gospel passage about trees and fruit.  Because it’s baked into this simple language about figs and thorn bushes, trees and fruit.  

Beyond this agricultural metaphor, lies a challenging statement: a person full of goodness in his heart produces good thing; a person with an evil reservoir in his heart pours out evil things. And if that isn’t clear enough, Jesus continues: The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart.

What makes these words so challenging is the clear self-judgement that that they offer for all of us.  Do we (really) want to know that content of our hearts?  Then all we have to do is listen to the words that come out of our mouths.  Do we (really) want to know what is in our hearts?  Do we produce good things or evil things?  

If you are reading this, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that you want to bear ‘good fruit’ and to have good rather than evil flow out of our hearts.  But so often the words that come from our mouths aren’t good.  They don’t build up those around us, they don’t uplift the spirits or the lives of those in need, those we love, or those that are different than us.

We all know the phrase, ‘it’s the thought that counts’, and sometimes I think we kind of think that we believe that it is an unofficial motto for our faith.  We know we are supposed to be good – but ‘it’s the thought that counts.’  We know that we are supposed to bear good fruit, be a positive influence in the world and for others., but that’s hard and I don’t always want to be nice to everyone.

This passage makes it clear that it isn’t the thought that counts. Our hearts count, and because our hearts are what count, then that means that our words count, and our actions count.  

The realization of this difficult truth leads to two other insights.  First, if we want to know how we are doing in faithfully following Jesus and living into his call for our lives – the formula is pretty simple: do our words build up or tear down and are our acts bringing light, love, and goodness to the world around us or not?  We may not always like the answers to those questions – if we are honest – but asking and answering those questions can help us course correct when we have strayed from God’s call and strengthen our resolve when we are heading in the right direction.

The final, and most important insight is that answering those questions in the negative is not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.  Sooner or later – or for most of us, sooner and later – the darkness in our hearts will seep out in our words and in our actions.  We will, and we have, fallen short of God’s call in our lives.  

There can be no doubt that we have, or we will produce ‘bad fruit’ from time to time.  Based on the plain reading of this passage, our bad fruit means that we are bad trees – closer to thorn bushes than fig trees.  But, and this is the most important part, Jesus bears only good fruit.  

Out of Jesus’ heart only and always flows goodness, mercy and grace.  In and through Jesus Christ we are redeemed and transformed from thorn bushes to fig trees, from bad trees to good ones, from hearts full of evil to hearts full of goodness.  In the end, our goodness doesn’t rest on our words, our actions, or even our hearts – instead it rests on the goodness and greatness of Jesus Christ.  Praise God for that.

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer:  God, cleanse our hearts, so that they might be filled with goodness, love, and light. Amen.

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