The External and Outward Reveals the Internal and Inward!
Internal and external! Outward and outward! Do we give great attention to all of this?
There is a principle found in our Lord’s words that we must never forget. It needs to settle into our heart and should motivate us in all we do. Jesus uttered it in Matthew 12:34a: “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” This would mean that our heart determines how and what we say. Our speech doesn’t just come automatically and without motivation or meaning. When we hear words coming from a person’s mouth, they can tell us something about the person.
If we were to apply this principle to our daily life, we must recognize that the words we speak—whether good or bad—are the product of our inner person, our mind and heart. Jesus goes on to enunciate this principle further: “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:35). If we see good fruit, shouldn’t this tell us that the tree is good and right?
The Lord then expresses a very serious warning: “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). Jesus can condemn a person because of the words spoken since those words come from the person’s heart. Jesus “searches the minds and hearts,” thus He knows what is inside the person and what is being expressed outwardly (Revelation 2:23b).
Thus, when we hear a person use profanity or vulgarity, we can know something about the heart that would dare to speak in this way. When we hear someone take God’s name in vain, or use Christ’s name in a profane way, we can know that the person’s heart is unclean or impure. When someone tells a lie, we can know that deception is in the person’s heart. Jesus said that “evil thoughts” and “deceit” are “from within, out of the heart of men” (Mark 7:21-22).
We can easily see this principle: that the outward reveals the inward, that the heart will be manifested in our outer person. But this very principle is applicable to many other areas of life and not just the speech.
Outward Revelations of an Inner Attitude
Consider a few of these expressions:
First, if someone reads filthy books or magazines, this indicates that the heart is impure. As the Lord said, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). If someone looks at pornography on the internet or through videos, this reveals a heart that is unclean and immoral. The outward is revealing the inward—the heart.
Second, when someone speeds on the highway (a very common practice), this might very well indicate that his or her heart has little regard for the welfare of others. After all, if one is willing to jeopardize the life or well-being of another person, would this not indicate a lack of love? And we know that love of others is the second greatest command of God (Matthew 22:39). (Obviously, this traffic infraction also reveals a lack of respect for the civil government.)
Third, if someone dresses in an immodest, provocative way (or undresses!), this surely would cast reflection on the woman’s (or man’s) heart. It indicates a lack of love for the opposite sex, for “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10). We know that looking with lust is wrong, but if someone is clothed in a way that would awaken such lust, then the one who dresses in this way is likewise sinful.
Fourth, if someone steals something from his or her employer, or practices shoplifting, or takes something from his neighbor, we know that stealing something is sinful. It probably indicates a heart of covetousness and greed, and Jesus says that “deeds of coveting” “proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:22-23).
Fifth, if a person constantly eats junk food and fills up on foods that lack nutrients, or if he overeats and becomes overweight or obese, this also indicates a heart attitude that is not good. When we focus on the flesh and eating that just appeals to the taste, rather than that which is nutritious, this is a fleshly attitude, and “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God,” and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
Sixth, if a person takes a job or position that violates one or more of Christ’s plain principles of life, that person must know that he is not walking in harmony with the ways of God. This compromise could very well indicate a lack of trust in God who could provide more godly employment. Or it may reveal a corrupt heart if he is willing to fill a position that requires corrupt or compromised activity.
Seventh, if a person constantly wastes money that God has graciously given to him or her, that should be used in His work on earth, doesn’t this reveal a compromising spirit? God gives money “to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28b), and to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:19). The Lord doesn’t give an income to pursue worldly activities, for this surely would indicate a worldly focus (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
Eighth, if someone follows a certain televangelist or preacher, and this person is teaching false doctrines, or living a worldly lifestyle, or is employed by a compromising church or ministry, doesn’t this reflect the follower’s own inner attitude of compromise? If the preacher or teacher promotes a “prosperity gospel,” or some other false way (Romans 16:17-18; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 Peter 2:1-22), would this not indicate a compromising spirit by the follower?
Ninth, if a woman publicly speaks, teaches or preaches, doesn’t this reveal a careless attitude and a spirit of disobedience, since Scripture is plain that a woman must not speak publicly or teach over men (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:33-37)? Nor is she permitted to pray publicly (1 Timothy 2:8).
Tenth, if a person begins to live with the opposite sex (without being married), or marries one of the opposite sex (after a wrongful divorce), we can conclude that such a relationship is fornication or adultery—a clear case of sexual immorality (Matthew 19:3-9; Hebrews 13:4). But we must conclude that the person has no inner regard for the Lord and for the Lord’s will regarding sex (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). The inner attitude of lust and desire has manifested itself in sexual compromise.
Many Other Expressions of Outward Wrongdoing
We’ve only given ten easily-understood examples of how a wrong, fleshly, and compromising inner heart attitude can result in wrongful outward actions and relationships. Obviously, it would be quite easy to list another hundred examples. Probably other ones have come to you as you read the foregoing.
We began our discussion by referring to Matthew 12 to show that one’s speech reveals the heart. It is “from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” Similarly, it is from the heart that stealing, dishonesty, profanity, disobedience to parents, disobedience to one’s employer, waste of time, waste of money, and a host of other external matters can reveal a sinful and wrong heart attitude.
Let’s not be like the Pharisees who were so concerned about external actions, that their hearts were wrong. Jesus said, “You, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28). On the other hand, sinful (or unrighteous) outward actions do reveal an inner problem. These outward actions reveal a sinful heart attitude.
God will one Day judge the heart—as well as the outward words and actions. The Lord Jesus will “disclose the motives of men’s hearts” and some of those motives and thoughts would be manifested in outward behavior (1 Corinthians 4:5). Let’s make sure that we have a heart that is pure and do outwardly that which is pure!