“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
Careless words. We’re all guilty of speaking them. On a good day we offer flippant answers. On our bad days we easily express thoughtless putdowns and let angry outbursts fly without a second thought.
But they’re only words, right?
Beloved, when Christ returns, He will hold us accountable for all of them.
Words may seem an odd thing for Jesus to judge us by. We might expect righteous works or immoral sins as a basis for judgment, but careless words?
Scripture reveals at least two reasons why God would place such high importance on the words we speak. We find the first tucked right before our opening verse in Matthew 12.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (verses 34-35)
What we say flows from what resides within our hearts. Our words reveal our true heart condition. As believers, the words we speak will either reflect the oppressive chains of sin or the life-giving presence of Jesus.
Dear one, 2 Peter 1:3 assures us that once we put our faith in Jesus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .”
According to Scripture, we lack nothing necessary to live a godly life, but we often neglect to draw on His power to enable us to live differently. Instead of taking on Christ’s nature, we choose to look and sound like the world He died to overcome.
Beloved, Jesus does not take that kind of misrepresentation lightly.
Ezekiel 36:26 reveals God’s desire to give us a new heart and a new Spirit. He plans to transform our hearts of stone into loving hearts of flesh that beat in communion with His. Our words indicate whether we’re cooperating to allow that change to take place. Instead of careless words, the mouth of the believer ought to build others up in keeping with Jesus’ character and presence.
That brings us to the second reason our words hold such importance. Consider the nature of God’s words.
- And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3
- And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. Genesis 1:9
- He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39
Do you notice anything significant about what happens when God speaks? In case you missed it, I’ll let God describe it for you.
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
God’s words are powerful; they achieve whatever He speaks. Each word God utters produces a result. His words never fall carelessly or without effect. When the Creator speaks, that which He spoke is called into being. Whatever He speaks occurs.
Dear one, you were created in the image of God.
Contemplate the implications of that statement. You and I were created in the image of a God who speaks things into being. No wonder Proverbs 18:21 teaches,
“The tongue has the power of life and death . . .”
Please don’t misunderstand me. We don’t share God’s power to call our desires into existence simply by speaking them forth. He alone is the almighty, omnipotent, Creator God. But as vessels made in His image, our words are also powerful and shouldn’t be tossed about without thought. They hold considerable potential to build up or destroy.
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
I can’t help but think of the times my own careless words have hurt the people I love. The times I chose to be right instead of silent. The times I’ve thoughtlessly undermined my husband’s leadership. The times I’ve watched my sons’ countenance crumble as a result of carelessly chosen words.
Then I consider the words of my Savior. I know firsthand how His encouraging whispers lift my soul, how they fill and never empty. They breathe life into my wounded places. They offer hope.
No wonder Jesus harbors concern over the words we speak.
As we give voice to the words that flood our thoughts, we have an opportunity. We can say whatever comes to mind and hope we don’t do too much damage, or we can deliberately choose to surrender our thoughts and words to Jesus.
With the Creator behind the words we speak, we may just get to witness a few miracles.