Good morning all!
“If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”
Words have power. Words reflect how we see ourselves and others. Words can transform and words can be destructive. We live in a world of words all around us. We were actually just talking about this in our worship team yesterday. At McMinnville Cooperative Ministry there is a group called the worship team that meets every Tuesday afternoon to plan worship and vision ahead. We check in with one another about where we have seen God this week. We go through the details of the upcoming worship. We talk about what we could have done better last week. Then we read a devotional together for the worship coming up in three weeks. We discuss the text, talk through ideas, and then at the end of our time we talk about what good movies we have seen or good books we have read. Keeps ideas flowing.
Yesterday, for two people in the group, God showed up in some pretty simple words. By simply recognizing another human being by name and greeting, it transformed a situation. These were two different incidents but highlighted just how powerful words become even in what we think is pretty simple. By calling the person’s name, each of our people found a human connection.
We live in a world where words make a difference. Knowing someone’s name makes a difference. Greeting someone with kind words makes a difference, especially during a season that could so easily slip into loneliness and darkness. Words can provide connection and light.
The Matthew passage places Jesus in this long discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus about what is right. The Pharisees aren’t wrong, Jesus keeps breaking rules. This comes right after Jesus and the disciples have been eating out of a field on Sabbath. The Pharisees are just trying to figure this guy out…we do a dis service when we label them as the bad guys. These are the guys who know the words as rules, front and back. They uphold the law as part of being holy.
And Jesus is throwing them for a loop because Jesus is trying to get to what is the meaning of the law (freedom and wholeness) rather than the law itself. So when Jesus talks about healthy fruit and healthy words as a reflection of the heart, he comes out of this context. How do our words reflect what is going on inside? Can we use our words as tools of connection and love rather than using our words to enforce law that doesn’t reflect meaning?
Advent is about this kind of intentional reflection. How are we using our words? Are we creating healthy fruit or pretty sickly fruit? Are we thinking through how we reflect our want to be closer to Jesus? Will you call someone by name and greet them to make a difference? Will you be intentional about how you speak to the other and even to those in your household? Will you have a meaningful conversation today that you have been meaning to have? Words have power. It is time to use them well. 🙂
One Comment Add yours
Great post. This topic comes up a lot in my life. I think that is because I was trained as a social worker and the way you use language can make or break a potential relationship in a matter of seconds. That is true for most human connections, but it seems more heightened in social work because people are at their most vulnerable. I continue to use what I learned in that context to interact with the world, but I know I do fall short at home. It is very easy to be less gentle and understanding with those that you live with, but they are the people that it is the most important to care for with your language. This is something I am constantly working on. I really like the translation you used for this verse.