The Expository Files

"Every Idle Word"

Matthew 12:36,37

Jesus believed that speech is important. I wouldn't think anybody would dispute that. We use our tongues on a daily basis, and when we hear of  someone who is mute or impaired in their speech through some physical, medical or emotional condition, we are sorry and perhaps entertain the fear of suffering such a loss. The argument is made by James that the tongue is a small part of the human body, but has great potential for either good or evil.

Our speech reveals who we are. How do we get to know someone? We probably don't study their picture or stare at them. We talk to them and listen to them. Communication is the primary way we get to know one another and form bonds of fraternity and friendship. Our speech reveals who we are.

In Matt. 26:73, some of those who were standing by at the arrest of Jesus noticed that one of his disciples was there, Simon Peter. How did they know that? "For the way you talk gives you away!" Earlier, in Matt. 12:34, the Lord said that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." People learn about us by listening to what we say, and how we say it. We become acquainted with people through the same medium.

Just think of all that can be done through speech. In speech there is the power to instruct, motivate, comfort, control and hurt. No wonder Jesus said:

"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned," (Matt. 12:36).

Jesus emphasizes one simple truth here: We will give account for our speech. I hope we all realize, anything that can condemn us on the Judgment Day is important right now. You will not be condemned on that day because you made less money than another. You will not be consigned to punishment because you were not as pretty or handsome as another, or not as athletic. You will not be condemned by Him because you didn't attain a certain social status, you were not popular, talented, educated enough or didn't belong to the right political party. But every idle word you will give account for. This is something so important, Jesus tells us it can condemn us on the Judgment Day.

We must prepare now for the accounting that will occur then. "For we must all appear before the Judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad," (2 Cor. 5:10). Notice: "Each one ... for the things done while in the body ... whether good or bad!" Jesus said, "every idle word."

Are you ready for this final accounting of your speech? "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books," (Rev. 20:12). John says, in verse 15 of this chapter, that if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire. What are we doing now to get ready for all of this then?

I found this recently that may help us examine ourselves: "I am more deadly than the screaming shell of the cannon. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me, no purity pure enough to daunt me. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive. My name is Gossip."

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 7.4; April 2000