LCN Article
Out of the Abundance of the Heart

May / June 2020
Personal

Gerald Weston

Dear Brethren,

Jesus declared, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). How true and how important a concept is contained in these few words.

I’m reminded of a high school friend who went on to attend Ambassador College. His speech class (“Ambassador Club”) held a Wild West–themed ladies’ night in the Frontier Room of Ambassador Hall. Various props were spread out on tables, including several rather old guns. During a break in the meeting, a high-profile faculty member was using the barrel of a pistol to dislodge the rusty safety device of another gun.

My friend owned a .22 caliber rifle and was very finicky to make sure that no scratches or rust developed on it. We used to go down to the dry riverbed in Santa Maria to shoot rabbits, and he always made sure to clean his rifle meticulously afterward. (For those who were “triggered” by that, trust me: No animals were ever successfully killed on our excursions.) Watching this faculty member working on the safety as he was, my friend could imagine that if his hand slipped, the gun could receive a deep scratch down the barrel. But how do you tell a faculty member twice your age that you do not think this is a good idea?

Inspiration suddenly seized him. The individual in question was known to have shot his foot practicing “quick draw” some years earlier while in the Navy, so my friend opened his mouth with what he thought was a tactful question: “Is that how you shot your foot?” In his mind, it seemed to be a good question, but coming out of his mouth it did not sound quite the same as it had in his head. The tone of his question betrayed a bit more than he would have liked, and he received a tongue-lashing as a result!

What comes out of our mouth—not only the words but the intent behind them—cannot completely hide what is in the heart. As the proverb says, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:18–19).

The fact that Jesus warned the people of His day about their words indicates that there was a problem at that time. But how much more the problem is magnified today! It involves not only what comes out of the mouth, but what is typed into cyberspace. Social media demonstrates the problem all the time. How often individuals vent their thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other platforms. People are less inhibited “hiding behind” a keyboard and screen than they are in the presence of flesh and blood. They say things they would never consider saying to someone in person. For whatever reason, the Internet greatly reveals the problem of the heart.

Every Idle Word

Jesus also warned that we will have to answer for every idle word that we speak (Matthew 12:36). We trust that if we repent of our indiscretions, we will be forgiven. Nevertheless, even with forgiveness from our Creator, there are consequences for our words as well as for our actions.

A number of revelations have come out in recent times regarding high-profile political leaders who said or did something regrettable while in high school or university. This is no doubt grossly unfair, mean-spirited, and politically motivated. Should any successful judge, senator, governor, or presidential candidate be held accountable for something he or she did several decades ago? Surely, we are mature enough to forgive the indiscretions of youth! Sadly, that is not the world we live in, and that is why it is important to instruct and warn our teens, young adults, and even ourselves of the importance of guarding our mouths and what we say on social media.

Do we realize, dear brethren, how much is known, stored, and studied about virtually every one of us? Marketers and analysts have data galore on a vast percentage of the population, including the members of God’s Church. You may think that because you aren’t on social media—perhaps because you don’t even own a computer or smartphone—you are safe. Think again. How many pictures of you and your children have others posted? How many times has your name appeared on someone else’s Facebook page? Probably more than you think.

Do you realize that every time you give a command to Echo or Alexa, it is being stored in a database, and that Amazon and other providers use “artificial intelligence” to analyze every bit of data about you and your habits to see how they can market to you? How many have experienced having a private conversation in their home regarding a purchase they want to make, only to have pop-up ads appear on their computer for that very product or service the next time they logged on?

What about all the technology that watches over your home with cameras, and that allows you to turn appliances on and off and lock doors remotely? Do you realize that information is being stored and analyzed? For the most part, it is simple and (relatively) harmless marketing. If that is all there is to it, it may not be a big deal. But can we understand that these technologies can also be used to control populations? Many observers have noticed that YouTube and other platforms hold a leftist bias against content that does not fit the politically correct agenda.

We are warned in Ecclesiastes 10:20, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter.” Has there ever been a time when this warning is more applicable? Have you ever experienced having a conversation with others only to have your smartphone begin talking to you? I have, on more than one occasion. Anyone who has the “Okay Google” app open may trigger a Google response if it thinks you are asking it a question. Now that is a genuine “trigger warning”—but one that few heed.

Serious Business

We can be certain that persecution is on our horizon as Christians. What we believe on an ever-increasing number of issues is not politically correct, and those taking it upon themselves to decide what is right and wrong are becoming bolder and more militant. Perhaps it is time to be more thoughtful about what we say to others, even in private. It is certainly important to teach our youth to carefully consider their words and their actions—and to understand that lesson ourselves.

Smartphones and social media may appear as innocent toys or tools, but they are serious business and require wisdom. Cyberbullying has caused some to take their own lives. Sexting, where teens invite others to post pictures of themselves in compromising poses, can be dangerous and come back to bite them years later. Making threats or venting quickly online “in the heat of the moment” when upset by something is a foolish practice.

It is shocking what people display over social media, and this is even true of some Church members and teens. Many employers will not hire someone until they have checked the applicant’s social media pages. How many people fail to get hired because their social media history is a liability to them, and they never know it? Employers might be a bit more lenient in a high-employment environment, like the one the United States was enjoying, but what happens after COVID-19? Great economies never last forever!

One of the dangers of the Internet is what has popularly been called “fake news,” and this phenomenon has real relevancy for us. Fake news occurs when someone spreads a false rumor, either knowing it is false or sincerely believing it is true when it is not. I suppose we are all guilty of passing something along in this latter category. This happened awhile back when some young people thought the Charlotte Family Weekend was cancelled and had the idea that a petition should be started to change our minds at Headquarters.

There were two problems with this. The first is that this is not the way we make decisions in God’s Church. Sometimes our youth—and our adults as well—do not understand the reasons for things and run with their emotions. The second problem was that those who started this, though no doubt sincere, didn’t know what they were talking about: The venue for the weekend had already been booked a couple of months earlier, long before the petition even showed up. A call or email to our Charlotte office would have cleared the matter up instantly, without spreading worry or concern.

No long-term harm was caused by the incident, and it was a great “teaching moment” for any who wanted to learn. However, it illustrates how quickly misinformation and emotions can lead to poor choices—with the potential of making matters worse instead of better.

Transforming Our Thoughts

The Feast of Pentecost is coming, and that fact is relevant to this topic. As we noted at the beginning of this article, Jesus explained, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). My friend in Ambassador Club could not hide his heart, despite deploying what he thought was a tactful question in hopes of doing so. Who we are and what we think will be laid bare sooner or later by what we say and what we do. It is not enough to choose our words carefully. That is essential, but what is in our heart is even more important.

God gives us His Holy Spirit to transform our hearts. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10). That is why His Spirit was poured out upon the fledgling Church on the first Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection.

Have people ever said or done something that prompts you to condemn them in your heart, only to have the thought enter your mind that you yourself were guilty of something similar? That is likely God’s Spirit working on your heart. It is a gentle reminder of your own need to change—to remove the beam that is in your own eye, and to be compassionate toward others.

In this present age, Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is a liar (John 8:44). He is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He directs the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2). And, he wants to destroy the people of God. Computer technology is a wonderful benefit when used properly. We would have a hard time doing the Work today without so many modern innovations. We use social media to preach the Gospel, and with it we can go into areas of the world we could never reach without it. However, as with everything mankind creates, it can be—and is—used for evil, and there is a malevolent spirit being only too happy to encourage its wrong use.

The heart of that spirit being is bad, indeed.

And that is why God is transforming our innermost thoughts to be as His own—so that we, as God’s firstfruits, can replace that being, and reign in this world with hearts fashioned to match our Father’s.

signature of Gerald Weston


Editor’s Note: We understand that many of us are going through serious trials related to the COVID-19 crisis that has kept so many of us isolated for so long. Much of the content in this issue of the Living Church News was written before the pandemic hit. So, while the magazine may seem a little out of touch due to its lack of coverage on the topic, we decided that you might enjoy reading some spiritually edifying and uplifting messages that do not focus on the coronavirus. In the meantime, let us all continue to pray for one another, beseeching God in a heartfelt manner, as the effects of this crisis continue to unfold and as the Day of Pentecost approaches.