Weigh Your Words
But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting for every careless or useless word they speak. For by your words [reflecting your spiritual condition] you will be justified and acquitted of the guilt of sin; and by your words [rejecting Me] you will be condemned and sentenced.”
Our words have the power to heal or to destroy. Our choices in using them make a
difference in people’s lives,and God will judge those choices when we stand before Him to give an account of our lives. On that day, we can’t say, “Oh, that’s not what I meant,” or “She didn’t understand,” or “I was just joking.”
In this warning, Jesus tells us that even our “idle” words will pass through the fires of judgement. We can understand that really important statements will receive God’s attention: defending a friend with courage, lovingly affirming our spouse at a critical moment of self-doubt, confronting the Little League coach for not playing a son enough or lying to a parent. But even our most off-the-cuff remarks undergo God’s scrutiny because they, too, have the power to heal or destroy. A spontaneous word of praise can make someone’s day, or a careless whisper of gossip can ruin a reputation.
The gravity of Jesus’ statement makes us stop short and ask, “Whoa, this must be pretty important. What do I say that needs more attention?” What indeed.
Words are the visible clothes that our invisible thoughts wear.
We’ve all heard the expression, “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” That holds true in most cases but sometimes it can be misinterpreted to say that unless we speak only what those around us want to hear we aren’t speaking good. I think that none of us enjoy words of correction and yet they are necessary. Jesus isn’t suggesting that we only speak positive things for He Himself often called people to accountability. Remember how He rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, or Peter for speaking against the plan of God, or when He told the multitudes that becoming a disciple would call them to make dramatic changes, and when He addressed the religious leaders?
What Jesus is saying to us is to remember our conversation will be measured in the light of eternity and when He uses the word “idle” He is referring to thoughtless, careless, uncaring words that are spoken from untamed thoughts. Paul in Philippians tells us that our thoughts are critical for they are the seat and source of our words. Jesus tells us that it is from what’s in our hearts that we speak with our mouth.
“You brood of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man, from his [inner] good treasure, brings out good things; and the evil man, from his [inner] evil treasure, brings out evil things.”
These two verses precede our text verses today and in them Jesus is saying that from our “inner treasure,” whether that treasure is good or evil, we will bring our either good or evil. It is then that He tells us that our every word will be judged when we stand before Him. Words matter because they are a reflection of our thoughts. We have all heard that the battleground for the soul is the mind. Every word, deed, or act begins with a thought. This is why Paul tells us to be careful about what we think about. Jesus tells us to be careful with what we put into us and He was clear that He wasn’t talking about what we eat but what we hear and see. In the computer world we’ve all heard, “Garbage in, garbage out.” And it is certainly true for us as humans. Whatever we allow to influence our thinking will eventually come out of our mouths. For those who may not think that what we listen to or what we watch or who we allow to influence us isn’t all that important, let me ask a simple question: how many commercial jingles can you still remember the words? I think that most of us can sing by heart the Oscar-Meyer jingle: “Oh I wish I were an Oscar-Meyer wiener….” Advertisers understand the power of suggestion and they know if they can get us to listen to catchy tunes or phrases, we will more than likely buy their product. The same is true for what we entertain in our minds. What we feed grows and what we starve dies.
Some of us spoke things that were unwholesome before we came to Christ and as we’ve filled our minds with the Word of God, our unwholesome speaking has transformed so that now what we used to say is no longer coming out. Instead good, wholesome conversation is being said. That transformation came about because we began to put the Word of God in our mind.
James sums up our devotion today by reminding us that we cannot produce both good and bad at the same time.
“Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.”
As we speak, perhaps we first ought to measure our words and consider whether they will heal or hurt; whether they will divide or unite; whether they will build up or tear down, and how will we feel when we hear them replayed when we stand before Christ.
I think that when we are aware of these things our words may be a little more thoughtful.
Dr. John Thompson