But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak,
they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
– Matthew 12:36
Jesus spoke plainly about our idle words, yet His warning often goes unheeded. Jesus said that for every idle word there will be a time of accounting in the day of judgment. We would expect Jesus to condemn profane and vile uses of the tongue, but idle words? Idle words are things we say carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. We too quickly assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook.
Yet Jesus was fully aware of the devastating nature of our words, for the idle words that come from our mouths give a lucid picture of the condition of our heart (Matt. 15:17-20). The Book of Proverbs encourages us to speak less rather than risk saying something offensive (Prov. 17:28). Often when we have nothing significant to say we are tempted to speak injurious, idle words.
The more time we spend in idle chatter, the greater the likelihood that we will say things that are harmful. James cautioned believers to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). We are in much less danger of saying something offensive when we are listening than when we are speaking! Think carefully about the words that come from your mouth.
Christians should speak only words that uplift and bring grace to others (Eph. 4:29). Do you need to speak less? Do you need to be more careful about the kind of humor you use? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you evaluate whether your words build up others or whether they destroy and hurt others.
Excerpts republished with permission from Experiencing God Day by Day by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby c. 1997 B&H Publishing Group.