In this morning’s traffic, my husband apparently violated one of the most important unwritten rules of the road: he changed lanes into the very spot that another driver intended to move into. Suddenly this large pickup truck zoomed up alongside us just so he could dangerously cut us off, then slammed on his brakes. To teach us a lesson, I suppose: Don’t you dare get in my way! I’m the most important person on the road! A few minutes later—from a safe distance—we watched him tailgate the person in front of him. He was clearly an angry and aggressively hostile driver.
We did not have to wonder what was in his heart. Lots of anger, lots of entitlement, lots of pride.
One of the most insightful observations Jesus ever made was when He said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) Whatever fills the heart is what is going to spill out of the mouth. But it goes far beyond that.
It’s our reactions, more than our actions, that demonstrate what’s really in our hearts. When people fire off emails or Facebook comments or Twitter blasts without thinking, it reveals what’s in their hearts. When people leave scathing comments on a blog they disagreed with, dumping their thoughts and hitting “submit” without further thought, they are broadcasting what’s in their hearts. When upset people send hurtful, insulting texts because they’re “just being honest,” they are showing that they are people who honestly don’t have good hearts.
Have you ever been in a public place where “F bombs” fill the air like heavy pollution? The hearts generating such vulgarity and complete disregard for the sensibilities of those within earshot are full of vulgarity and thoughtlessness. That’s why it flows so easily out of their mouths.
When I was in Africa, my beautiful and wise Rwandan interpreter told me, “We have an African saying—always believe a drunk man.” I laughed at the sheer wisdom of that; after all, alcohol removes not only inhibitions but also filters. When a well-known celebrity’s racist rant was recorded during his arrest for drunk driving, his public apology included that he had “said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.” Well, according to his Creator, what came out of his mouth was a painfully accurate display of what he actually does believe, despicable as it may be.
So what do we do with this connection between the heart and what flows out of it?
I think it’s wise to see the ugliness of road rage, F bombs, angry and unkind comments and texts, and unloving rants like red lights on the dash board of our car. It means something is wrong under the hood. It means we need to invite the Lord to shine His light of truth on what’s in our heart and show us where we need to submit to His right to be Lord of every square inch of it. It means we need to confess as sin anything that is not honoring to Christ and to other people, and ask Him to change that in us so we look like Him.
Because the abundance of a heart filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control is going to flow out with words and actions others will actually want to be around.
And they’re much better to share the roads with!