“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”
In the creation account (Gn. 1.11-12; 21), living things were only able to reproduce after their own kind. All things have an essential nature—a “genetic makeup” from which they don’t deviate. The Bible claims that there are only two natures, and we all belong to one or the other. We either have the nature of sin or of Christ. We’re either light or darkness—a sheep or a goat. Admission to heaven is not based on behavior, goodness vs. badness, or how many brownie points one has racked up. If you have the nature of Christ you will gain entrance; if you have the nature of sin, you’re out. It’s not an issue of behavior so much as it is of nature, though behavior follows nature, for the most part.
But what about behavior? Isn’t it true that a lot of people who still have a sin nature really are good people? And that a lot of people who claim to be born again are quite the jerks—the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing? Yes, it’s true. That’s why it’s not our place to judge, and that the separation of sheep from goats is left to the one who knows hearts, and who knows what nature you have.
So the world is full of fakers, and especially the church. No matter what, eventually a person’s true self will out. Their fakiness will be detected and their true selves will be known. No one can hide behind a mask for long. People are able to tell what someone else is really like.
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
My conversations with a local rabbi reveal that the Jews believe in actions as much as attitude. He argues that even if the heart isn’t in it, isn’t it better to give to the poor than not, or to speak words of kindness than not? But Jesus says that it just belies the heart as one of putting on false fronts to make one seem a better person than one is, or that pretending to be good makes one good.
The heart counts, but as we see above in the verses about the fruit, the heart must play itself out on the sleeve and on the lips. A hidden heart is the tragedy of hidden good works undone, kindness unspoken, and righteousness unshared. And actions without the heart are the tragedy of hypocrisy disguising itself in morality—both shameless and shameful.