The Storeroom of Our Hearts: Receiving the Good Gifts of God

How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. (Matthew 12:34–35)

In commenting on this passage, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary sums it up well: “Verse 35 makes a tight connection with v.33: what a person truly is determines what that person says and does. Out of the ‘heart’, the center of human personality, the ‘mouth speaks,’ revealing what is in the heart. How, then, can those who are evil say anything good? What is needed is a change of heart.”

Indeed. We need to become new.

We, The Storekeepers of Our Hearts

When it comes to the new creation life of Jesus, there is a very real sense in which we participate with God to bring that life to fruition.

While it all begins and ends with grace, we nevertheless have a role to play. If we didn’t, the Scriptures wouldn’t be full of admonitions and commands — not just in the Old Testament, but in the New, most especially in the very words of Jesus. (The entire Sermon on the Mount, for example.)

So when it comes to the storeroom of our hearts, we play a pivotal role. We are, after all, the storekeepers. We collect those things that shape us.

And yet, we are not creators of ourselves.

I think this is an important distinction. After all, as the Reformers always insisted, we cannot make ourselves good. In another place, Jesus poked at a man who addressed him as “good teacher” by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:18, NIV).

Yet here, Jesus took the Pharisees to task both because they could not tell the difference between a good man and a bad one and also because they had allowed so much evil to accumulate in their hearts, only to overflow through their mouths.

These points, though, are related. James tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17, NKJV). Everything good comes from God; everything good is his gift.

Goodness itself is a fruit of the Spirit, as Galatians 5:22 assures us. We can be good people, people who mirror the goodness of God, but the goodness that shines through us will come from him and through him, and it will manifest in our lives as — and only as — we receive his gifts.

To return to the analogy of a storeroom: things in a storeroom come from outside of that room. They are stored up, kept, there. But they come from elsewhere.

The same is true of everything we store in our hearts. Yes, everything, including those things we were born with, those things woven into our DNA, even our own creative powers. If we were to argue than anything has originated with us, we would have to argue that we self-originated, that we sprang into being all by ourselves. In our own strength, we somehow created ourselves — our own powers, our own potential, our own personality.

Since this isn’t true, we have to admit that we are, first and foremost, receivers and responders. (“What do you have that you didn’t receive?” Paul asked in another context, 1 Corinthians 4:7).

If we are going to be good, it will be because we receive good things from God.

I am not trying to negate human personality and individuality: there is a real “you” in you, a unique and potentially immortal creature with agency and personality. We have real free will and a real ability to respond, and in a real sense we shape ourselves by the things we choose to receive and the way we choose to respond.

But nothing originates with us. Everything comes from somewhere else. And everything shapes us.

Filling the Storeroom of Our Hearts

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV).

In our hearts, we store up everything that motivates and moves us. In our hearts we store up the Word of God, or, conversely, messages that run counter to it. In our hearts we store up faith or doubt, love or hatred, grace or vengeance.

In our hearts we store up our memories and, more importantly, the stories we tell about those memories — about the meaning behind the things that have happened to us. These meanings, these messages to ourselves, become the focus of our life’s meditation.

And this shapes us. What we store in our hearts molds our character and becomes the lens through which we see the world. The springs of our lives truly flow, not from anything outside of us, but from what’s inside.

Ultimately, it is our choice to store something given to us or not. When we do, it becomes part of our inner treasure: the collection of things we guard and protect, the things we value.

I alluded to this last time, but not everything that presents itself to us for keeping comes from our own minds or from God. We do in fact live in a spiritual warzone, and the chief weapons of our adversary are deception, accusation, slander, blasphemy, and temptation (which, when you really think about it, is another form of deceit and even of blasphemy).

All of these things will come to us begging to be kept, treasured, dwelt upon. They will often come with the lie: that they are the deepest longings of our own hearts. And with this comes another lie: that we are contemptible, despicable, worthless, because we can think such things and be attracted to them.

The enemy will take all our memories and try to attach meanings of his own to them.

I hope you see the trap here.

On the other hand, God also daily presents us with gifts to be received and treasured, if we will only choose to keep them.

  • His full and free forgiveness.
  • His devoted, faithful, ardent love for us.
  • Our true self — the person God imagined, designed, and created.
  • His strength in our weakness.
  • His indwelling Holy Spirit, with all of the Spirit’s fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • The gifts of creation — sunshine, flowers, rain, food, sunsets, oceans, the beauty of trees, the beauty of one another — and the meaning of them, that we are deeply loved and cared for.
  • Relationship with one another.

Everything God gives us is a gift, freely given. If we imagine that we must create or discover all these things within ourselves, we will become deluded or despairing.

We do not come into the world equipped to get ourselves to heaven, because that was never the way we were designed to operate.

We were always supposed to lean on God; we were always supposed to receive his grace. He has more for us than we can imagine, and he desires to give it to us.

Remember how Jesus kicked off his kingdom inauguration: with the words “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We were never intended to DIY our own salvation, or even our own spirituality.

We are called to recognize that we need God, and to turn to him to meet our needs.

That’s it.

Christian spirituality is not fundamentally about striving, but about receiving.

The Day, Once Again, of Visitation

And here’s how this all, ultimately, ties in. For many weeks now we’ve been looking at how Jesus was God in the world: how his coming was the day of visitation for ethnic Israel and how his still being here, through his Spirit, is the day of visitation for all of us (ethnic Israel included).

When it comes to the contents of our storerooms and therefore the shaping of our lives, nothing matters so much as how we respond to him.

We must respond to him.

We must receive him.

We do this in many ways: through our intaking of Scripture, through worship and communion, through prayer and the exercise of faith, and perhaps more importantly than anything else, through the way we love and respect other human beings, who are the living image of God, and other Christians, who are the presently available body of Christ.

You were created to be a good tree, one that manifests the goodness of God in the world.

And you can do it. You will do it as you receive from him, as his goodness fills your storehouse and transforms you through his love and faithfulness to you.

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This is Part 217 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.


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