A Teaching of Matthew 12:33-37
Many say that human being is an organism. However, the statement does not reflect the true human being. Human being is not only physical and biological but also mental and further spiritual. So, it is more suitable and so more precise to say that human being is a holistic being—holistic of the body, mind, and spirit. There is no other such holistic being in the nature; it is the nature of only human being as God created it. Therefore, for a man to comply to God’s creation, he has to live up to the holistic nature.
One of the most disappointing things in the church is to see Christians who do not live up to what they say they believe. Jesus termed such conduct as hypocrisy and he rebuked those who do it (Matt. 6:1-18) and even condemned them (ch. 23). The hypocrisy means a behavior of a person who practices righteousness to be seen by others (Matt. 6:1) but not for its own sake (5:10). The bad examples were the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who had the judgmental attitude against others as if they had upheld the law (7:1-4; 23:2; Rom. 2:1-3). The worst example of it might be teaching the law and doing themselves the opposite of what they taught (Matt. 23:2-7; Rom. 2:21-22). Why James warned sternly those, who want to be teachers in the church, could be understood in this regard (James 3:1).
Hypocrisy is a very thing against the nature of human being, the holistic nature. Man cannot live in body a different life than the one his mind and spirit drive him to live. If his mind is set on God and his heart is full of godly spirit, he cannot live an evil life in body, except some mistakes. If his spirit is not righteous, he cannot live in body a righteous life at all. He can pretend to be righteous, but the pretension just indicates that he is living by evil spirit. It exhibits his hypocrisy. He may deceive some people by it, but God is never mocked (Gal. 6:7). On the day of judgment he will get what he deserves according to the life he will have lived, with no exception. This tells us of the fact that human being is the holistic creature—If one is evil in sprit, however he may try to look in his behavior, his whole life is evil; on the other hand, if a man practices true righteousness, he is righteous (1 John 3:7; Ezek. 33:12-20).
A man cannot do good with abundant evil in heart; neither can he do evil with abundant good in heart (Matt. 12:34-35; 15:18). It is because God created human being as the holistic being of spirit and body. This is the key principle to understand the teaching of the word of God. Every part of it is based on the principle. Jesus in Matthew 12:33-37 teaches this principle. There, he uses the tree metaphor. The kind of tree is the being of a person—whether he is righteous or wicked. The fruit of the tree is the deeds of the person, that is, the life he lives. Jesus says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad” (12:33). The point he makes in the verse is that nobody can live a different kind of life than his spirit in his heart drives him to live. In the teaching, he reveals the holistic nature of human being as God created it.
This principle is found in the Bible in so many places. For example, the emphasis on heart, mind, and spirit is all connected with this principle nature of man. On this basis, Abraham was called to command his household and offspring to “do righteousness” (Gen. 18:19), Moses commanded the Israelites to “circumcise the foreskin of [their] heart” (Deut. 10:16), and God punished “those who were circumcised merely in the flesh” by the exile (Jer. 9:25). The New Testament’s emphases on rebirth in spirit and living by the Holy Spirit are based on this principle nature of human being too. We can find some of them in these passages: John 3:5; Rom. 8:1-11; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 4:17-32; Phil. 2:5-8; 1 John 3:24, 4:13.
This principle makes Christians tremble in the awe of God. If one is not consistent in conduct and heart and spirit, it means he or she is living contrary to the holistic nature of human being. In other words, he or she may be hypocritical, not righteous. So, what should we do? We also have to circumcise our foreskin of heart. In other words we have to change our heart, mind, and spirit according to the teaching of Jesus. Without changing our mind and spirit, whatever we may pretend in our body to be seen better, that never saves us. Let’s remember that God created us as the holistic being. It means, only as we make our mind and spirit like Jesus’, and our fruit, that is our life, will be pleasing in the sight of God.