“. . . Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:45 (ESV)
What spills out of your mouth when you are squeezed? When my then-unchurched boyfriend (now-believing husband) accompanied us for the first time on a family road trip, we experienced an amusing incident that exposed a clash of cultures. Nearing home in the dark of night, we ran over a sizeable obstacle in the road which tore through our oil pan and brought our vehicle to a screeching halt. The shock of the incident elicited exclamations from everyone in the vehicle.
“Help us, Jesus!” screamed Mom.
“Praise God!” yelled Dad.
“$#*@!!!” bellowed my boyfriend.
And then there was silence. The expletive hung in the air, a strange sound in our ears. Four years later, I married that young man, and I have imagined myself superior to him because I do not swear in anger.
Nevertheless, I simply don’t swear when I am frustrated or angry, and I believed that this verbal self-control put me a step above my spouse on the “righteousness meter.” One day during an argument with my husband, I trotted out this fact as evidence of my superiority (you can imagine how that went over) to which he replied,
“I may curse in the more obvious fashion, but your cursing is just as cutting, perhaps even more so, cloaked in disdain, mocking, and shaming arrogance.”
Ouch! You know that feeling when a truth bomb has detonated, but you absolutely do not want to admit it?
Jesus delivers a similar rebuke in Matthew chapter 5 when he tells us that our human “righteousness meter” is not as accurately calibrated as we imagine. He tells us that anger is just as bad as murder, lust is as bad as adultery. He even adds, just to be clear, “whoever says ‘You fool!’ [to another] will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22, ESV)
Really?! Did He have to use an example of something so common, so easy to let slip off the tongue? Can any of us hope to measure up to this standard? Are you good enough to make the grade?
Jesus exposes a fundamentally human weakness: we wish to calibrate our sense of righteousness by comparing ourselves with others rather than with Christ. Unfortunately, this human-to-human comparison leads to deception not to discernment. (2 Corinthians 10:12-18)
None of us is good enough. Spiteful attitudes, thoughts, and words spring up unbidden from the self-centered nature of every human being. Certainly, we desire to place our hope in God, but there is a war going on inside us. Paul gives us insight into this battle with a personal revelation, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)
This is The Awesome Apostle Paul. If anyone could live a righteous life in his own strength, surely it would be this man. And yet, he describes the challenge that we all face: when we are squeezed, there is a good chance that the abundance of our heart will be shown to be more self and less God.
Confidence in Self
To be sure, Paul also reveals that as he matures, he puts less stock in his personal qualifications and more confidence in the righteousness that only Christ’s death could purchase for him. Paul becomes aware that confidence in self is opposed to confidence in Jesus. In Philippians 3, the revered apostle presents his credentials, the ones he obtained by measure of his nationality, his studies, and his achievements. If anyone could boast in the flesh, it was Paul when he was Saul. He was untouchable. And yet, his personal qualifications actually separated him from God in the early days. Before his humbling encounter with the “light from heaven” on the road to Damascus, his misplaced zeal made him an enemy of Jehovah. (Acts 9)
How do we temper this human tendency to be wise in our own eyes? It is tempting to think that our credentials make us good enough to earn God’s blessing. Saul had an inflated view of himself, perhaps as nearly equal to God as any human being could be. He may well have considered himself an understudy for the coming Messiah, just in case they needed a human substitute to step in and save the world.
Jesus’ Heart of Abundance
In Matthew chapter 4, we witness Christ speaking from a heart of abundance. We enter the story just after Jesus is baptized by John when He is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:2, NIV)
Do you notice the similarity to the story of Job? Jehovah allows the devil to test Job (Job 1:12). He also permits the devil to test Jesus. Here we get a chance to see how Jesus responds to an attack of evil designed to take Him down:
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he [Jesus] was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:2-4)
Friends, do you see what just happened?! When Jesus encounters evil, He does not fight the attack with the power of his own qualifications, even though he could (He is God, after all). Instead, Jesus confesses the Word. Selah — pause and think of this.
When Jesus is squeezed, the abundance of His heart is God’s Word. Here in Matthew 4 He is referencing Deuteronomy 8 in which Moses encourages the Israelite’s to remember what Jehovah Jireh has done for them so that they trust in Him no matter the trials they face as they prepare to enter the Promised Land.
Our Prayer for You
I pray that you allow God to examine the abundance of your heart and reveal the thoughts and intentions that reside there. Allow Him to disclose your treasures, both lovey and not-so-lovely. He already knows your deepest thoughts, and He appreciates when you are honest with Him.
God wants to celebrate with you and bring freedom where you are bound. Use the Scriptures, just like Jesus did, to protect you from the lies of the enemy. When you are full of God’s truth, and life’s troubles squeeze you, wisdom will come bursting out. Holy Spirit will inspire the Word hidden in your heart to guide you and to protect you.
Ask the Lord to remind you of the stories of His steadfast love both in your life and in the lives of others. May your heart be satisfied by feasting on testimonies of God’s faithfulness, drawing your strength and refreshing from His salvation alone.