Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!

In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:

“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” (v. 33).

(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).

(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).

Let’s break that down from the top.

Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.

Hockey Puck Apples

Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.

Ta-da!

From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.

Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.

We Need a Heart Transplant

But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,

“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)

We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.

Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).

So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?

Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!

About Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. (She's married to a wonderful man now!) She spends her days caring for her son, Iren, and writing for Revive Our Hearts. She's the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, and she and her family live in New York.

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  • Fulbrightgirl

    Wonderful object lesson on the up close and personal aspects of what our words are. Staying connected to the true source our savior JESUS CHRIST will yield much fruit. Our hearts transplanted into one of flesh and build up on our holy faith. So needed! Thanks for the reminder.
    Under His Shadow!
    Psalm 91:1

    • phendricks

      Wasn’t it a great object lesson? Grateful to Paul Tripp for thinking of it. 🙂

  • Brooklyn Mikinzie

    This is such an eye opening blog post. From your quiz that you posted last week, I knew that I needed to change my words, the way I use them, ect. But I never really thought about how its a heart issue!
    This post kinda goes deeper for me than what was intended, I think. See, recently Ive been trying to change a lot about me. But Ive realized that instead of changeing it outwardly, I need to change it inwardly. Thank you!

    • phendricks

      Dear Brooklyn,

      I’m so encouraged with the way you’re tracking with this series and applying it to your life!

      Actually, we’re going to take it even a step deeper the week after next! See, ultimately we can’t change our own hearts; we need God to give us brand-new ones.

      Grateful for you,

      paula

  • lia

    sigh….ouch. this is something I struggle with alot, have struggled with for a long time. except my take on it might be more along the lines of self-image….
    Honestly, for a long time I viewed myself/my heart as a garbage dump…I’m trying honestly now to BELIEVE what God says about me/to trust that He really loves me, etc…but it’s soo hard! I think though when we open ourselves to God and to believing that He sees us as a treasure trove, we begin to live that out.

    • phendricks

      God, Thank You for the message I heard this morning, that even though Jacob was self-centered, a liar, undeserving, and unworthy . . . he was Your man. Fifteen times You call Yourself ‘the God of Jacob!'” God, Lia and I just want to say that our hope is found in the God of Jacob, not in having our life all together (Ps. 146:5). Thank You that nothing can separate us from the love of God [the God of Jacob (and Lia and Paula!)], that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39). Help Lia believe that in You, she is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

  • Megan

    Thanks so much for this post!!! I knew that I wasn’t very kind with my word but I didn’t know how to take care of it for good. I guess you could say I was nailing apples to my tree! 🙂

    • phendricks

      So good to hear from you, Megan!

      God, thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You that the natural fruit He produces in us when we give Him control is all we can’t conjure up on our own: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). We invite and welcome You to take over in our lives right now! For Christ’s sake, Amen.

  • Sam

    sounds like something i need to work on……..

  • Eleni Mote

    I definitely need to work on this. Sometimes I’m not completely aware of what my attitude says about my heart. Thanks for posting!

  • Audrey

    Great ideas! That’s the way to really find out where your heart is.

  • Sar

    I am really excited about learning to honor God with my words. I want to stop being so fake and being afraid–I want to be willing to say whatever he wants me to say and to stop saying just what I feel like without caring.

  • Alicia

    My heart is a mess. Bitterness grew in..anger built up. And then guilt and shame because I know that’s not how a Christian is supposed to be. Even as I was typing that last sentence, Jesus gently nudged my soul and said, ‘I’ll take that away for you.’ Now I’m crying. O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this body of sin? LORD, come quickly and take our sin nature and flesh away and establish Your perfect reign on earth!

    • Paula Hendricks

      Dear Alicia,

      I love it that the Spirit of God nudged you even as you were writing this. Yes! Someone recently reminded me (as I was crying about my sin), that I can turn from it RIGHT NOW. Check out Romans 6: you are dead to the sin of bitterness and sinful anger, Alicia, and you are alive to God in Christ Jesus. Choose to turn to Him and embrace others with His love right now. Then do it again when next you sin.

      Praying for you now,

      paula

      • Alicia

        My family member who hurt me and my son came and apologized to me i believe the same day as I read this article. She was one who I was getting bitter towards. I had cried many times to the LORD to restore our relationship but God allowed the bitterness to teach us both that we need to turn to Him to take our sin and crucify it. He restored us slowly in these last few weeks. He is the Restorer.

        • phendricks

          Thank You, LORD!