If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I used to think that my mom would tell me that just to get me to shut up. I have always been a talker. You get me talking about any
past few weeks there have been some areas in my heart that have needed grace and healing. Every once in awhile I find myself speaking about someone in a not so nice way, and if we were all truly naked and open before the Lord this morning, we would all have to say that we too have done this. We have spoken ill against a brother or sister in the Lord who has hurt us. We have allowed words to fly out of our mouths without even giving them a moment’s thought. We have hurt people and torn down people with our words. Today, I was convicted, and the fear of God which is leading me to repentance, was brought anew into my heart as read these words of Jesus.
“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
Ouch! That hurt! Idle words are something I am good at, unfortunately. I find myself talking about useless things all the time. But is that really what Idle means? The word idle, according to Vine’s Dictionary, means a barren word. It is words that yield no return, words that are thoughtless and profitless. They are completely ineffective and worthless. Adam Clarke says that an idle word is “a word that does nothing, that neither minister’s grace nor instruction to them who hear it.” The very words I speak are to minister to others. The words I speak are to edify and build up the people who are listening. Can I honestly say that I speak in such a way as to always, in every word, build up the people who are listening to me? No, I am afraid that I do not. I am humbled by these words of my Lord today, humbled and in need of His forgiveness.
Jesus goes on to say that we will either be justified or we will be condemned by the words that we speak. In the verses before 36 and 37 Jesus is telling us that a tree will be known by its fruits. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matt. 12:33) Jesus is not only speaking to the scribes and Pharisee’s that have spoken against Him, but also to each one of us today. Our words tell others what is in our heart. Jesus goes on to say that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) Right before Jesus says these words He called those listening a brood of vipers. Their very words were filled with poison. And if we were honest, sometimes our words are full of poison too.
So many times I have caught myself saying something about someone who is my brother or sister in the Lord, or found myself speaking ill about my husband to another sister in the Lord. The Lord is convicting me of this today. These things ought not to be so in His children. We are to love in word and in deed. Our words reflect what is in our hearts. By listening to someone speak we can determine where they are in their relationship with the Lord. By their words, by our words, others will know and see our fruit. Unfortunately, sometimes what comes out of my mouth is bad and rotten fruit. It does absolutely nothing to the hearer but make them want to speak the same ill way.
I believe the Lord God wants us to see and to know that our words, even the carelessly spoken ones have an eternal impact on our lives and the lives of those who are listening. Idle words are of no value, they are of no importance. They can be anything from harmless girl talk to gossip, to lies, to exaggerations and even blasphemy. Any word that does not edify or exhort the person listening, I believe, is idle and we will be held accountable to God for them.
We know and believe that God sees everything and everyone at all times. We know that He is ever present, that He is all knowing. But do we not also see and know that He hears everything too, even the secrets spoken between friends? If we believe He sees all, then we must also believe that He hears all too. James warns us that our tongues are a world of iniquity. Our tongue is so positioned in our bodies that one wrong word can defile us inside and out. (James 3:6) What we speak has just as much significance eternally as what we do. How we live before the world is not always judged by our deeds, but many times, by our words. You can be the greatest servant of the church. You can have every title, do all the ministries, lead bible studies and sing praises to God on Sunday. But what comes out of your mouth tells me who you really are. What comes out of your mouth tells me what is really in your heart.
I am convicted this morning of the idle words that I have spoken, and I am accountable to God this day for every single one of them. I have asked the Lord how am I to speak then? How am I to know what it right before Him when it comes to my words. He gave me the following scripture.
“Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Before I speak, I need to ask myself and pray that all the things I am about to say are true, are noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. Ask myself if is there any virtue in them, is there anything praiseworthy in what I am about to say? If not, then perhaps my mom was right- I don’t need to say anything at all. If we can’t say anything nice, my brothers and sisters, perhaps we shouldn’t say anything at all. Perhaps that is why James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath”, (James 1:19) because if we are slow to speak, we will not be speaking idly, but will be speaking to glorify God and to edify His people. Pray before you pick up that phone call. Pray before you write that email. Pray before we send that text. Pray for the Lord to speak through us, and that all our words will edify and bear fruit to those who hear them.
Father I come before You this morning a humbled woman. Father, forgive me for the idle words that I have spoken. Forgive me for the words that have left these unclean lips and have come into Your hearing. You ask us to be holy, to be set apart from this world so that we can be Yours; wholly and completely. This includes our words. You see all, and You hear all. Father I pray today that we wouldbecome a Church body that recognizes and understands the eternal impact our words have on others and on ourselves. You will hold us accountable. Father, forgive me for this sin. By Your mercy and grace, teach me to speak what You desire me to speak, convict me when I speak idly, and discipline me in Your glorious grace. In Jesus name amen and amen.