“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 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.” (Matthew 12:35-37)
Have you ever said or heard someone say, “What I’m about to tell you is highly confidential, but I’m telling this to you because you’re my friend…”?
Or, “I know that it’s none of my business, but let me tell you what I think about…”
Or, “I’m not 100% sure about this, but I heard that…”
Do these statements sound familiar to you?
These types of comments are usually heard in our conversations when we’re about to speak idle words.
When Jesus spoke in the text about empty words, He was referring to the use of vain, superficial, and trivial words.
What Jesus is communicating here is that it’s best to avoid an idle word because of its uselessness.
Useless words are most of the time the cause of slander and defamation.
It’s normal for the average person to speak words in a free and careless way without thinking about the consequences.
We, in America, are privileged to enjoy freedom of speech, and this allows people to express their opinion on any given matter freely.
Even though this is a beautiful right, it also creates the possibility for people to run their words freely, and fall into the trap of speaking idle words.
For unbelievers, idle words can be positive, and in many instances funny, as they saturate TV and media.
Therefore, it’s pointless to address them with this warning of Jesus, because according to the Bible, they’re blinded.
On the other hand, Christians must pay very close attention to this warning. That’s because we’re capable through the Holy Spirit, to grasp the Spiritual concepts of the Word of God.
We, as Christians, must not allow ourselves the freedom to use idle words.
That’s because, for every spoken word, we’re going to give an account to God. Plus, every word we say has tremendous power either to bless or to destroy.
Understanding the Origin of Idle Words
Idle words mostly occur when gossiping.
Therefore, to understand the source of idle words in our conversations, we must understand the source of gossip in our conversations.
One of the definitions of gossip according to the Fairfax dictionary is, “A conversation involving malicious chatter or rumors about other people.”
The purpose of someone that uses idle words is to speak evil, to complain about someone else, or to create enmity among people.
The motivations behind doing this are diverse. For instance, jealousy can motivate a person to speak many idle words.
Additionally envy, or disagreeing about other people’s actions can also trigger an emotion of hate, bitterness, and a desire for revenge.
According to the Bible, all these feelings are enlisted in what the Apostle Paul refers to as “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5: 19-21).
The Apostle says that those who habitually practice those things will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
That’s why we have to dig deeper into this topic so we can avoid using idle words.
How to Avoid Idle Words
Even though to many Christians the phrase WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) sounds more like a cliche, it’s still something of extreme practical value.
This is exactly what must ask ourselves to avoid idle words.
Let’s consider these words of Jesus In Mathew 18:15:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV)
This passage is the perfect remedy for avoiding gossip, and consequently idle words.
In that portion of Scripture, Jesus tells us that when we’re offended by someone, we’re first to call that person out on their offense “BETWEEN YOU AND HIM ALONE.”
That’s because we need to forgive them.
It’s unfortunate that in most cases inside the Church, the first thing we do when we’re offended is to tell someone else about it.
Instead, we’re supposed to go and speak the truth in love to the person that caused the offense.
If we’re not successful in the first step, we move on to the second one.
The second step is to take one, or two more people to confront the offender.
Finally, if this does not convict the offender, the final step is to tell it to the church.
What does the Bible say about gossip?
1. “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:16 NKJV)
2. “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace. A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” (Proverbs 11:12-13 NKJV)
3. “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.” (Proverbs 26:20-22 NKJV)
The Great Damage Caused by Idle Words
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue.
It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.
My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
-James 3:6-12 NKJV
We can cause so much damage when we’re careless with our words, especially nowadays, with the use of social media.
Whatever we say or post about someone else is going to spread. It could spread slowly or quickly, but once it comes out, the damage is irreversible.
Can we cut a pillow open, throw the feathers out of the window, and then later on collect all the feathers back together?
The answer is no.
It’s the same thing when we use idle words.
As James encourages us in the text, we have to control our tongues, and avoid idle words at all cost, in order to avoid the destruction that they cause others.
Let’s conclude with the warning of Jesus in the opening verse, but now with a more profound understanding of idle words.
“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.” (Matthew 12:36-37 NKJV)