But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37 (KJV)
The English Standard Version translates this passage: "...on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak..."
Idle words. Careless words. Either way, this is one of the scariest passages in the Bible to me.
I am a writer. I post here at the blog; I produce a weekly newspaper column; I write books; I write devotionals and emails and letters. Lots and lots of words.
As my oldest daughter has accurately observed, concision in not my strong point. You've heard the expression, "Well, to make a long story short...", right? I tend to turn that expression on its head: "Well, to make a short story long..." Why say in a few words what can be expanded to fill an entire page?!
Too many words, and not always handled appropriately.
When I was a girl, my mom frequently challenged me with these words: "Before you speak, Camille, ask yourself, 'Is what I am about to say true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?'" Mom understood the weightiness of words. Mom knew that words - even idle or careless words - carry with them eternal consequences.
I still try to ask myself those three questions regularly. And I wonder: How much of the traffic on Facebook and Twitter, in emails and instant messaging, in chat rooms and comment threads - how much of that traffic would be silenced if people paused to consider that one day, they will have to give an account for every word they speak or text or type?
Every single idle word.
God has created us and called us to speak. To speak words that are true, and honorable, and just, and pure, and lovely...
Yet I so often run my mouth without engaging either my brain or the filter of Scripture. Aaaaugh! Then, when I realize my folly, I understand Job's lament: "I lay my hand on my mouth!"
"...every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Reading those words, my heart trembles.
But then I read...
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:1-5
Jesus. That most true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable Word. That Word which redeems my filthy heart and mind and mouth, and cleanses me from every idle word I have ever thought or spoken or typed.
All those idle words I have spoken - Jesus is the one Word that silences them all.
The Word which no darkness can overcome.