Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jesus's Words on Words - Matthew 12:33-37

33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.

34 "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?  For the mouth speaks out that which fills the heart.

35 "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.

36 "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for in the day of judgment.

37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

I realize some of these verses overlap with our previous post; 33-35 make up a "transitional" point that has to do with both the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and the power of words.

We already pretty much covered 33 in our last post, so let's look at 34-35.  Jesus is saying that, while people certainly can fake things and shape their words to trick you, ultimately, a person's words will reveal their true character.  Let us all ask ourselves: What does what I say (and how I say it!) tell other people about me?  Does it reflect the kind of person I want to be?  Does it reflect Christ well?

As for the careless words spoken of in verse 36, I think the ultimate passage on this topic is James 3:1-12.  I encourage you to click the link to read the entire passage (it's pretty short), but here are some highlights from it:

So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. (verses 5-6)

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  (verses 9-10)

So, what are careless words?  Here are some examples I can think of:
Cursing others
Speaking of things we shouldn't (like making dirty jokes, for example)
Wasting time on pointless conversation in a situation when serious things should be discussed (like witnessing to someone)
Using the Lord's Name in vain (this includes "Oh my God," despite our culture's lack of concern over the phrase)
Speaking in (unjustafiable) anger

Now, what's with that bit about giving an accounting for it in the day of judgment?  Well, we will all stand before God in judgment at the End of the Age.  For those of us who have accepted Christ, Jesus has paid the price for those sins - but that doesn't mean they won't be mentioned.  If that's what it takes to help you think before you speak, then mull on that: Do you want to have to give an account for the thing you are about to say before God in His glory?  Our sins are forgiven, but they are still deadly serious - and it was the realization that they are deadly serious that drew us to Christ in the first place.  And these careless words we speak definitely qualify as deadly serious - men will be condemned for them (verse 37).  For those of you who do not have Christ in your hearts, know that you do not have to face God's judgement without Jesus's perfect record credited to your account - click here or on the "How to Receive Salvation" tab above to learn how to accept Jesus's forgiveness, and feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment with any questions about that.

This brings us to verse 37.  What does it mean that, "By your words you will be justified"?  Let's look at a couple of Scriptures:

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Romans 10:9)

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess Him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny Him before My Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 10:32-33)

Now, this is not saying that words are magic - confess means we have to mean it (i.e., confess Jesus as Lord = say and mean that He is Lord of your life, that He is in charge now).  We have to live it.  But that kind of circles back to the main point: Just as our actions ought to match our words, our words reflect what's in our souls.

Questions for You
What other examples of careless words can you think of?
Has there been a time in your life when you really wish you could take back what you said?
Any other questions or comments?
Giving Credit Where It's Due
Image: "Orange blossom and oranges" by Ellen Levy Finch.  Wikimedia Commons.  Used by permission.

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