“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” (Prov. 27:19)
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus describes to us how we are to recognize a tree and its fruit, or in other words, a person and their heart. While he opens the passage pointing to false prophets, the same principle applies to all, especially to those claiming to be of God.
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Mat. 2:16)
Herod’s jealousy and pride led to the horrific part of the Christmas story, when he had all of the young boys (two years old and under) killed in hopes that Jesus would be among them. He saw Jesus as a threat to his throne as the political king of the Jewish nation. Little did he know that Jesus came to rule all creation as the King of Kings, and not just Judea.
Herod constantly feared conspiracy to his throne, leading to the execution and murder of his wife (two of them), three of his sons, and even his mother-in-law. His distrust, addiction to power, and idolization of his position were reflections of his heart.
I looked up Herod to learn a bit more about him, because there are always two sides of a coin. From Zondervan Academic (biblegateway.com), we learn that Herod did have a good side:
Herod wasn’t all bad. He presented himself as the protector of Judaism and sought to gain the favor of the Jews.
He encouraged the development of the synagogue communities and in time of calamity remitted taxes and supplied the people with free grain.
He was also a great builder, a role which earned him the title “the Great.” His greatest project was the rebuilding and beautification of the temple in Jerusalem, restoring it to even greater splendor than in the time of Solomon.
Judea prospered economically during Herod’s reign. He extended Israel’s territory through conquest and built fortifications to defend the Roman frontiers.
This is interesting, because we see that Herod essentially:
- Stood up for his religion
- Encouraged development of his community
- Was freely giving and generous to his people in times of trouble
- Physically restored and took care of the temple
- Led his nation to economic prosperity, military victory, and political success
While these activities look good on the surface, his heart did not reflect one that belongs to a child of the living God.
What do our lives reflect? What is the reality of our heart’s condition? Do we just look good on the outside– supporting Christianity, doing good things for the community, giving to the poor and needy, taking care of physical church matters, and showing worldly “success” in our jobs, homes, and ministries? Or as Jesus describes, can we be recognized by our spiritual fruit?
Galatians 5:22-23 describes what the fruit and reflection of our heart should be: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
This is what the life of a person with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and actively guiding them will be filled with. And this fruit will be seen in how they interact with others (loved ones, strangers, and enemies alike), how they deal with situations (good and bad), and how they lives their lives (in public and private). It by no means signifies perfection, for only God is perfect, but this should generally define a true Christian’s disposition in life. Our sin and flesh should be all the more fleeting, the closer we walk with the Lord.
Herod may have seen some success through the lens of man and the world, but God looks at the heart. In the same passage of Matthew 7, Jesus shares the sobering truth that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat. 7:21) This is not a call to live a works-based faith, but a call to live a life of worship and reverent fear of the Lord, for faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).
We won’t have to strive and coerce ourselves to do good works for the kingdom when our lives are tuned to the Lord, as the desire to do these will naturally come as a result of our faith and relationship with Christ. This is the difference between slavery and freedom, as Christ’s love compels us (2 Cor. 5:14) to do good, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).
Heavenly Father, help us to live lives of obedience and worship to you. I pray that each of us would have hearts that reflect the heart of Christ. I pray that our good deeds are not out of obligation, but as an overflow of your Spirit working within us. I pray that our worldly success (or lack thereof) would not define who we are, but rather that our genuine love for God and others will. Remove any sin, strongholds, barriers, and hindrances in our lives that are keeping us from walking in complete surrender to You. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray all of these things, Amen!
[From December 27, 2018]