As I continue my journey through the life of Jesus, God is convicting me anew through the words of our Savior. His message is such a different one than the ones we hear today that are so grace based. Our culture is so turned off when Christians speak of how to live and how not to live; people want to hear that no matter what they have done, God will forgive. Don’t get me wrong – this is very much a true message. But. It is not the only message, nor is it the full message. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that God’s grace will cover any sin, but you must leave that life of sin and go forth striving to live a righteous and holy life that emulates the One who saved you (John 8:11). As I go through Matthew, I come to this potent, convicting passage out of chapter 12:33-37:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
In the context of this passage, Jesus is speaking of the Pharisees who pretend to love and seek God, but by their words their hearts are revealed to be wanting. He begins the passage by comparing them to fruit-bearing trees: by the fruit, the nature of the tree is revealed. In our lives, the words remain true. It makes no difference how well we know the Bible, how much we go to church or talk about God; if our fruit (our works, our actions, our words) does not reflect God, our hearts are not right before Him either. Look at your life, the words you have spoken to others (especially those to your family!!), the way you have treated others, the words you have spoken about others – do they reflect the Savior your lips profess? Or is the fruit rotten and reflect that your heart is not right before you Creator? We can only pretend for so long before the truth of our hearts comes through our lips as ugly words.
Then, Jesus continues to elaborate on the subject by saying that we will account for every careless word we speak. How I shudder at those words as I remember the way I have spoken to my children or the way I have judged others. If you will, look at v36 and find the word Jesus uses to descripe what kind of words for which we will account?
Jesus does not say that we will have to account for harsh words or ugly words or cuss words (though those may be included), but we will have to account for careless words. This words “careless,” is ἀργός, argos, in Greek. It means, “free from labor, at leisure; lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform” according to Strong’s definition. These words which we will have to account for are thoughtless words, words that may not even intend to hurt, but may hurt anyways. They are words which carelessly tarnish our image and the image of Christ which we are meant to reflect. We who profess Christ are the ones who promote Him by our actions; on the flip side, we are also the ones who tarnish His image in the eyes of those who don’t know Him. And not just with our intentionally ugly words, but the words that flow from our hearts out of our lips carelessly, without thought. These are the words that so perfectly reflect our hearts – the ones which are not given a second thought. When your words come out of your mouth so quickly that you don’t have time to think about them first, are they filled with uplifting messages that pour grace and love onto others, or are they filled with ugliness, cynicism, and designed to demean? These careless words are the ones we must watch, for they reflect the state of our hearts. As we go through our days today, I challenge us (both you and I) to be very aware of the careless words we throw out and examine them for their content. Let us count our words today and measure the health of our hearts in Jesus; let us be accountable for every word that passes our lips today and every day forth. More than that, let us be intentional about every word, and fill them with messages that will make Jesus shine. Verse 37 of this passage tells us that our words will either justify or condemn us; let us be justified today.
Thank you, God, for your direction, your instruction on how to live a Christ-filled life. Thank you that you do not just cover us with grace, but you teach us how to live righteously so that we might be acquitted as we bear good fruit in your name. I pray you keep us accountable and convict us by your Holy Spirit as we go today and think intentionally about our words and how they may affect those whom you put in our paths. I praise your most Holy Name! Amen.