Can a good person say evil things?

In speaking to hypocritical religious leaders who were accusing Jesus of doing his miracles by the power of Satan, Jesus says:

“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. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 (emphasis added)

A person can’t be divided from what they say and what they do.  In Jesus’s case, his actions were good, and they were coming from a good heart.  He was consistent.  The religious leaders on the other hand were branded a “brood of vipers” due to their ability to say “good things” while being evil people.  With the opposite also being true, saying evil things, while claiming to be good.

This is a very relevant message for today.  No one wants to be called “evil,” but does that mean evil people don’t exist?  When a person says evil things (over and over again), what is the logical conclusion?  These evil things are coming from an evil heart.  We are in a day and age when people think they can say and do evil things, but step aside from those words and actions and say, “I’m a good person.”  Or if it’s not them saying this about themselves, it’s their fans and followers.

I’m not talking about when a decent person makes a mistake, owns up to it, and seeks reconciliation.  I’m talking about people who use their power to abuse, mistreat, and step on others, then they (and their fans) are in denial about their evil hearts.

It’s been refreshing to see people losing their jobs and even going to prison for sexually abusing women and children.  It’s only through this type of accountability that socially acceptable evil behavior will change.

What if one of these sex abusers gives a lot of money to charity?  Are they a good person now?  Or they are really nice to babies?  Should they get to keep their job and be seen as a good citizen?  Should they not be held accountable for their abuse?  That’s sadly what happens all too often.  Yes, they did or said that, but that’s not who they are.

So what happens next?  Well obviously they continue their destruction, harming more and more people.  No one willing to hold them accountable because of the good things they do, or good ideas they have, or economic help they bring.  It’s amazing how money can blind society from morality.

I heard a great quote recently: There is no difference between what I believe, what I say, and what I do.

This is certainly true for regular people.  And it’s true in the courtroom, or at least it’s supposed to be.  You can’t give someone’s words or actions a prison sentence, you have to give the person who said the words or did the action the prison sentence.

But this rule typically doesn’t ring true for society’s elite.  Only recently have movie stars’ sexual abuse habits started catching up to them.  We’ve sadly lived in a country where if you’re rich and powerful, you can live above the law.  Both the actual law, and the moral law.  As if no matter how hateful the things you say or do are, you’ll still have throngs of adoring fans who somehow separate your hateful words and actions from what they would consider your good ideas or good actions.  The latter always trumping the former.

Is the tongue really no big deal?  Are words harmless?  Can a person say whatever they want about other people and still be a good person or a good leader, and not held accountable for what they say?  Should we still follow this person, convincing ourselves we aren’t following someone who is evil at their core?  James chapter 3 has some answers to these questions:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3:3-12 (emphasis added)

Two questions remain:

What kind of person will you be?

What kind of person will you follow, support, root for, and defend?

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