Thou brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (Matthew 12:34, New Living Translation)
What not to say. That’s one of the lessons we’ve just learned from Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Whatever Donald Sterling said, he shouldn’t have. I mean, really? Racially offensive comments may have been commonplace and may have been heard everyplace when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in the late ‘50’s, but they shouldn’t be now.
When we don’t know what to say, it’s best not to say anything at all. That’s what my mother taught me. Thanks mom. That’s another thing I can thank her for on the eve of another Mother’s Day. So did Sterling’s mother not give that teaching, or was Donald not listening? Of course we’ve all said some things that we’ve regretted saying, or at least we shouldn’t have said, but the problem is not just what he said, the problem is where he said it. He said it first in his heart.
What to say and what not to say, that is the question. Jesus said that “a good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart” (Matt 12:35-36, New Living Translation). I like the way the King James Version puts it: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” My interpretation of this text is that good people may say a bad thing or two, but a good person will generally speak good things because of what’s in the “treasury” of their heart.
A bad person, on the other hand, may say a good thing or two out of their mouth, but does that make them a good person? No way. The treasury of a “bad person’s” heart is full of anger and angst, hatred and abhorrence, dislike and disgust for others, and that’s what’s going to come out.
Bad people speak bad things because their heart is bad. And the only way to get a good heart is to get a heavenly heart transplant from above. That’s the lesson here. There are a whole bunch of folks who are still racist, and still say racist things, because in their heart, they harbor hatred toward people of other races and colors and backgrounds.
And only way to fix saying the wrong thing is to change the heart. Protests and pickets, penalty’s and other punishments are well and good, but Mr. Sterling will continue to say the wrong thing, in public and in private, regardless of the public outrage and outcry. His only hope, and our only hope, is to get help for the heart. Until then, Mr. Sterling needs to heed the ancient admonition: “keep your big mouth shut.”