“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. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 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. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)
In his book, The Me I Want to Be, Pastor John Ortberg suggests that all of us are constantly juggling a variety of “selves.” There’s “The Me I Pretend to Be” and “The Me I Think I Should Be.” There’s “The Me Other People Want Me to Be” and “The Me I’m Afraid God Wants Me to Be.” There’s “The Me that Fails to Be” and “The Me I Am Meant to Be.” But understanding and working through all these “alternate versions” of our self begins with an honest assessment of “The Me that Is.” And as Jesus’ words from today’s gospel lesson (Matthew 12:22-37) remind us, “The Me that Is” has a funny way of slipping out.
“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” Jesus tells us. “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.” Naturally, we’d like to evaluate “what comes out of us” on the basis of our best moments — the moments in which we’re prayed-up, well-rested, unstressed, and ready to deal with life. But perhaps a more accurate picture emerges when we’re at our worst. How do we respond to people when we’re tired and in a hurry? What do we say and do when we think no one is paying attention? What comes out of us when our heart brings forth what’s really there, rather than what we’d like to be there?
The Apostle Paul hardly strikes us as a rowdy hellion. And yet, in today’s New Testament lesson he says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) And herein, perhaps, lies the “secret” to bearing good fruit — the secret of becoming “The Me I Am Meant to Be.” It is only when we can acknowledge the lack of good fruit in us that we can truly “abide in” and “rely upon” the Vine, who promises us: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
May we truly abide in Him today. And may everything that we produce be “good fruit,” indeed.