There is so much going on in these 20 verses, but I want to specifically touch upon verses 33 through 37.
When I’m alone (or at least when I think I’m alone), I talk to myself a lot. If anyone was to somehow record me while I take my morning shower, they would know that my mouth is constantly going off. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I murmur about things I need to do for the day, and sometimes I pray. So why is it that I’m so talkative in the shower? For me, it’s one of the rare parts of my day when I am completely and preferably alone. With outside distractions kept to a minimum, I subconsciously allow my inner thoughts to be spoken out loud, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (v. 34).
So what is my heart so abundantly filled with that I feel the need to speak it into existence?
Unfortunately, mostly not good things. There’s plenty of anxiety. In the past week, every day I’ve woken up, turned the shower on, and uttered the words, “God, I don’t know what I’m doing” followed by a string of complaints about my currently unfruitful summer internship search. The fact that the first words out of my mouth are filled with apprehension shows what my heart is dwelling on recently.
There isn’t much joy or gratitude, even though I’ve heard “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) and “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 1:16-18) since I was a little kid. Clearly, knowledge is not always power. (knowledge doesn’t always translate to action)
Going back to the passage, in verse 33, Jesus says, “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.” After reading that verse a few times, I realized an important detail: making a tree “good” is really hard work, and it takes time. A tree has to be planted, watered, fertilized, and pruned. It needs the sun, the shade, and the passing of the seasons to produce good fruit.
This means that we, as followers of Christ, must actively strive to align our hearts to God’s Word every day. How we “feel” on a certain day should have no bearing on this. “Rejoice always” is an imperative, as in we have no choice but to do so regardless of how worn out I may be when stepping into the shower on a sleep-deprived Wednesday morning. This is a day-in, day-out commitment that will take time, just as a tree takes times to produce fruit. Jesus says, “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21). And in return, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
And it’s always important to remember that we are never alone. In fact, we really can’t do anything on our own (Psalm 127:1). We may water the tree, but praise God that He is the one who makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6). When we step out in faith in little steps of obedience, God delights in them and empowers us to more.
So what concrete steps can I take to make my tree good? One is to marinate in his Word. I find that I become much more swayed by how I “feel” when I don’t spend time in God’s Word. My prayers become focused on me and my struggles instead of his promises, and I think this is why I’m so anxious all the time. By filling my heart with the treasure of the Word, “the good person out of his good treasure brings forth good” (v. 35).
Second, consciously direct our thoughts to those that are pleasing before God. We are commanded to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” and anything of excellence (Philippians 4:8).
Lastly, have the courage to give your worries to God. Instead of merely saying “God, I don’t know what I’m doing”, recently, I’ve tried finishing the prayer with “but I know you do, so help me to trust you and be faithful with what you’ve entrusted to me today.” I cast my worries unto God, and this frees me up to see more of what he wants to do. And only then do I find true joy and peace.
Jon Suh ’20 is an Economics concentrator in Quincy.