Garbage In, Garbage Out; The Root

Yesterday I wrote about the thrill of dumpster diving for donuts. Those days are over (probably) but today I wanted to address a similar topic that hits at the root of a huge issue.

We’ve all heard the term “Garbage in, garbage out”, most likely coming from the lips of a parent or a well-meaning relative. It’s not just some old idiom thrown out to shame children into making better decisions and choosing better companions; Jesus himself spoke on this very issue.

In Matthew 12:33-34 Jesus declares, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree it known by its fruit.” That verse always stuck out to me because it begs for a standard. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, and calling out their hypocrisy. “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” 

There is no compromise here.

Since boyhood, growing up around my brother’s friends and those older than me, I’ve always remembered verse 34 and sought to keep a narrow yet thorough opinion of people by their words. If we could hear people’s thoughts I bet we’d choose our friends with a bit more scrutiny. You become like the 5 people you spend the most time around. Who wants to hang out with someone who’s not like-minded and seeking to benefit from each other’s company? Even to benefit one another.

If garbage in, garbage out is true, then as believers what should our next course of action be? We must examine our lives and ask, “What kind of fruit am I producing? Am I benefitting those around me by what I say?”

Jesus, in a similar passage in Matthew 7 tells us that “you will recognize them by their fruits.” Though the context here is discussing false teachers, the message remains the same. “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” He then reaches the climax by saying, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matthew 7:17-19).

I believed it as a kid and I still exercise the same practice of measuring people by their words. We all say foolish stuff we wish we could take back. I do it constantly. But thank the Lord for grace in our moments of stupid.

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil”(Matthew 12:35). 

To avoid beating a dead horse I’ll end with this: we talk about what’s important to us. The lives we live are evidence of what that is. There’s only room for one throne in our lives. Who will we allow to occupy it? Do we confess Christ and live accordingly or do our words convince otherwise?

The root of the issue is this: garbage in will always result in garbage out. So choose your words carefully.


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