13 A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.
14 The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

33 “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. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Mr. Potato Head toy was the brain story of George Lerner in the late 1940s.  His concept called for separate plastic facial pieces designed to be stuck into a real potato.  The Mr. Potato Head parts were originally included in boxes of cereal to promote sales.  Lerner sold the products to textile manufacturers Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who did business as the Hassenfeld Brothers later shortened to Hasbro.  In 1952, the Mr. Potato Head toy became the first to be advertised on network television and netted Hasbro over four mission dollars in sales during its first year of production.  One year later, he got some great news, when he was introduced to Mrs. Potato Head.  Soon afterwards, the Brother Spud and Sister Yam toys completed the Potato Head family.  In the late 1950s, Hasbro changed everything by including a plastic potato-shaped bod in each kit.

In the 1999 hit movie Toy Story 2, the toys are planning to rescue Woody.  And just before they leave, Mrs. Potato Head lifts up the storage compartment in the back of Mr. Potato Head and says, “I’m packing your extra pair of shoes, and your angry eyes, just in case.”  Have you ever needed a set of angry eyes or happy eyes or disappointed eyes? Mr. Potato Head only has a few facial expressions, but human beings have six basic emotions:  happiness, fear, sadness, surprise, anger and disgust, but we have over 20,000 facial expressions.  Our face is a courier of a message. Our face is an extension of our emotions.  Our face is an interpreter of intent.  So how do our facial expression show Christ’s love to others?

Proverbs 15:13-14 from Eugene Petersen’s The Message proclaims: A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.  An intelligent person is always eager to take in more truth; fools feed on fast-food fads and fancies.”  What is in our heart is reflected in our facial expression the Old Testament is saying to us.  I wonder how many of us have turned off folks because our facial expression doesn’t match our Christian heart.  We have times of unhappiness or sadness or disappointment, but what face do we put on daily to demonstrate our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Ron Hunter, Jr. and Michael Waddell suggest that human beings should pack eight faces.

  • Empathetic Face – genuine understanding
  • Confident Face – belief in person
  • Intense Face – focused
  • Attentive Face – awareness
  • Disappointed Face – room for improvement
  • Happy Face – Contentment
  • Sincere Face – Integrity
  • Optimistic Face – ½ Full Glass

As we think about all these ways to express emotion and feelings, our text for today is about more than a smile or a frown.  Jesus is dealing with the religious leaders of his day and reminding them of what is in the heart.  As we read one of several places Jesus battles the Pharisees let us be reminded that is this been an ongoing dispute.

They leveled charges that Jesus is in league with the prince of demons himself, and now he points the finger back at their slander. All in all, this is one of those passages you want to read as quickly as possible if not skip over entirely. Two things, however, that might make our reading, if not more pleasant, at least more profitable.

First, a word on context. It’s been noted by many that Matthew is the hardest on the Pharisees of any of the four evangelists. It may be that this stems from Matthew’s own rivalry with the Pharisees of his time. By the time he writes, you see – around 80 AD or so – the Jewish Temple has been destroyed and the Pharisees have risen in stature and status even as the Sadducees (the keepers of the Temple) have declined. Who knows – Matthew himself may have been a Pharisee or Scribe at one point or another. But now he is trying to keep his fledgling community of Jews who confessed Christ together, and he accomplishes this in part with a harsh portrayal of the Pharisees.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s little question that Jesus tangled with the Pharisees and other religious authorities. But there’s also little question that Matthew emphasizes these tensions more than the other evangelists and likely does that because the Pharisees of his time are his main competitors for the hearts and souls of his people.

Second, even amid this harsh exchange, Jesus makes an interesting point. It’s not simply that good fruit proves a tree is good or that bad fruit proves a tree is bad, but that a good tree can only produce good fruit and a bad one bad. Which makes me wonder: Christians have spent a lot of time telling people they should produce good fruit. That is, telling and encouraging and exhorting people to good behavior. If what Jesus says is true, however, then maybe we should have spent more time just telling people that they are good trees. That is, telling them that God loves and values them and wants the best for them…and then stepping back to see what happens.

Because we are. We are those people for whom Christ died that we might know just how much God loves us. We are those people who God called good, even when we fall short. We are those people God not only loves but also has called, equipped, and commissioned to share the word of God’s great love for the world with everyone.

We are good trees, and because we are, then we’ll bear good fruit. So maybe the Christian faith should be more about declaration than exhortation. Yes, it is important to have a smile on our face and show joy.  It is also important to have our heart transformed to live out our faith.  A faith that produces good fruit and encourages others to follow Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Dear God, remind us of your great love for us and embolden us to tell others that you love them just as much. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Commentaries provided by David Lose, Charlie Bailey and Doug Fannon.