It the early 1800’s it was said, “Food makes the man, want of it the fellow.” It was a rather pithy way of saying that our bodies are made up of the nutrients we take in (food) and our character made up of the challenges we overcome (hunger). But while memorable, it is only partly true. Our character is far more than the sum of struggles past. It is a sum of our own decisions and thoughts. Decisions and thoughts that we have collected over our years, including what came from those struggles. For even difficult circumstance and infliction do not become us – they only present us with a choice in how to respond. The decision to respond and the line of thought that it followed are what gets stored in the back corners of our minds. When later circumstance dictates, we respond by pulling those thoughts and decisions back out, applying them through word and action. We all innately understand that – our unfiltered words are but the exercise of the material we have intentionally stored up.
In the age of Twitter and Instagram, society is inundated with unfiltered words. The character of those who tweet and post indiscriminately is obvious to all. In fact, it is often the very reason they do tweet and post. They are looking for validation of who they are. Yet even while they do that, they dismiss the idea that those words reflect their character. When confronted, they say they “misspoke” or “made a mistake”. Their character – so obviously on display for all to see – does not get refined by repentance, but rather hardened by denial.
How should the godly respond? Jesus had no misgivings about calling a spade a spade. Addressing the Pharisees who had just maligned the Spirit of God, His words reveal God’s character even as they also reveal the Pharisee’s character. They demonstrate Jesus as having the same character the Father revealed for millennia through the prophets (indignation at injustice and anger at those who claim to represent Him while holding to internal wickedness). Jesus responds with a sharp call to the Pharisees to recognize how they look to God Most High, followed by His focus on the poison they’ve built their lives on, “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.”
It is a clear call to repentance. It is the same call they heard from John the Baptist, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” and the same call they would’ve read in Isaiah’s scroll, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.”
Our filtered words reveal our thoughts. But our unfiltered words reveal our character. Let us be careful then, to pay as much heed to what comes out of our mouths as what goes in them.
Unwholesome talk is like vomit; it spews out of the depths of your being and makes a nasty mess wherever it lands. Sometimes it makes you feel better, but it’s an unpleasant experience for whoever happens to be in the way!Henry & Richard Blackaby
May God grant that we adjust our character through repentance before we are shown by our words to have need to adjust our character through repentance!