Good morning! I hope and pray that your week has got off to a good start. It’s particularly cold here in the UK at the moment; I hope that you’re managing to keep warm.
In today’s Bible Notes we continue looking at the teachings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel:
 “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 .”
I once knew someone who worked in the RAF. One day lunch I asked him about erroneous missile strikes. There had been a spate of them at that time, including one incident where a hospital in Iraq had been struck. I asked my friend who such calamitous errors could occur in a time when we have such advanced technology. I wasn’t trying to apportion blame, I was just genuinely curious how these dreadful mistakes happened. I remember his answer: “stupid in, stupid out.” The system might be clever, but if human error leads to mistakes in the coordinates being entered, then of course there will be mistakes. If you want to ensure that your missiles hit the right target, you have to put the right data in. Stupid mistakes lead to stupid mistakes. (I did posit that a better way of avoiding civilian targets being hit was to avoid missile strikes altogether, but apparently this is an oversimplistic view).
I do find that idea of “stupid in, stupid out” interesting though. I suppose the same is true if you build a house. If you build lousy foundations you’ll get a lousy house. If you use low quality ingredients in a cake you’ll get a low quality cake. If you eat poor food then you’ll have poor health. If you feed your brain unpleasant stuff, then the changes are you’ll be an unpleasant person.
It’s this last point that Jesus picks up in his teaching today. In verse 35 he says, “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.”
If we binge on filth, whether that’s stuff we read, stuff we watch, or stuff we see, it’s likely that we will not be the most pleasant of people. This will manifest itself in the way we see the world, the way we regard people, and the way we interact with people. How can it not?
Instead, if we fill our hearts and our minds with positivity and goodness, that will be the way that we see the world and other people.
I’m aware that these are tough times we’re living through. Really tough. Our freedom is restricted. Our ability to meet up with those we love is frequently limited. Even getting hold of our favourite things is tricky. Being positive and good, thoughtful and generous, is perhaps harder than at any point in our lives. But if we fill ourselves with positivity, thoughtfulness and kindness we can change ourselves and the lives of those whom we encounter.
Where do we find this goodness? How do we store up goodness within us?
I would suggest that immersing ourselves in the teachings of Christ, reading his word, and striving to follow his example in all that we do is a great way to start. Ask him to send his Spirit into our lives, to refresh us and renew us, would be a very positive thing to do. Apologising for times when we’ve turned away from him and his way, and committing ourselves to follow him would be a great step to take.
However you’re feeling, whatever your perspective is, why not try to do that today?
Question for reflection: what are the negative, evil influences in our lives? Do we need to take active steps to move away from them? What can we do to fill ourselves with love and goodness instead?
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