Turn with me in your Bible to the twelfth chapter of Matthew – Matthew chapter 12. And we’re looking this morning at verses 33 through 37 as we continue the wonderful experience of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 12 verse 33 through 37. Let me read the section for you to set it in your mind, and then we’ll see what the Spirit of God will teach us from it.
Our Lord is speaking, and He says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt. For the tree is known by its fruit. O generation of vipers. How can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
It has been estimated that from the first, “Good morning,” to the last, “Good night,” the average person engages in 30 conversations a day. Some of you average more than that, some of you less. Statisticians have estimated that each of us will spend 13 years of our life talking, and every day our words could write a book of 50-60 pages. And in a year, if we’re just average, we could author 264 books of over 200 pages, just with our words. And you can even do more than that if you can speak in excess of 300 words per minute, as some of us are able to do, or if you talk incessantly at any speed.
Irishman Kevin Sheenam, of Limerick, Pennsylvania, in 1955, set a world record for nonstop talking. He talked nonstop for 133 hours. But is record was broken by Tim Hardy of Minnesota in 1975. He talked nonstop for 144 hours. Then there was Mrs. Mary Davis, who started talking in Buffalo, New York, and stopped in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 110 hours later. Astronaut Michael Collins was speaking some time ago at a banquet, and he estimated that the average man speaks 25,000 words a day, and the average woman speaks 30,000. Then he added, “Unfortunately, when I come home each day, I’ve spoken my 25,000, and my wife hasn’t started her 30,000.”
But I think some of my favorite comments on talking come from the last century, where a particular gentleman wrote, “The talker shakes a man by the ear like a dog does a pig and never loses his hold until he has tired himself as well as his victim.” He says, “His tongue is always in motion, though very seldom to any purpose, like a barber’s scissors, which are kept snipping as well when they do not cut as when they do. He is so full of words that they run over and are thrown away to no value and so empty of things or sense that his dryness has made his leaks so wide, whatsoever is put in him runs out all over. He is so long delivering himself, that those that hear him desire to be delivered too and dispatched out of their pain.” Talk. Words.
Look what it says in verse 37, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Does it seem startling to you that Jesus said your eternal destiny will be determined by your words? What you say will ultimately be the criteria by which God determines your destiny. Your words will determine your justification; your words will determine your condemnation. Does that shock you? Well, let’s look at the text and find out why Jesus said this.
Keep in mind that Matthew is presenting Jesus Christ; that is his purpose throughout his entire gospel. In the first nine chapters, he presented the wondrous person of Christ – His works and words. In chapter 10, he presented Jesus and the Twelve, introducing us to the co-workers of Christ and their ministry. Then in chapters 11 and 12, Matthew chronicles the rejection of Christ. You have nine chapters where Christ offers Himself, then the tenth chapter where He calls together men who will assist Him in that offer, and then in 11 and 12 you have the open rejection of the people. Really it’s a fulfillment of John 1:11, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” And as we have been moving through chapters 11 and 12, we have been noting the ascending level of rejection. First there was doubt, then there was criticism, then there was indifference, then open rejection, and finally blasphemy. They’re no longer just wondering, they’re no longer indifferent, they’re no longer just rejecting Him, they are turning on Him in overt vile blasphemy. And that is what we read in chapter 12 verses 22 through 32. That is the record of the blasphemy of the Jewish leaders against Jesus Christ.
And the substance of their blasphemy is in verse 24, and it is really the key to understanding our passage for today. For in that they say, “This fellow,” referring to Christ, “doeth no cast out demons but by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” And of course that is a name for Satan. So they watched Jesus cast the demons out of a man who was blind and dumb and no doubt deaf, in verse 22. They saw the amazement of the people in verse 23, and the people began to wonder if Jesus might not be the Messiah, the Son of David. And they were immediately threatened by the musings of the people. They were threatened by the thought that they might assume Jesus to be the Messiah, so they hurriedly and publicly affirmed that He did what He did by the power of the Devil – by the power of the Devil. And thus they spoke against Jesus Christ the most terrible words that have ever been spoken in human history, the most terrible words that ever fell from human lips, to have called Jesus Christ satanic, to have said of the lovely spotless gift of heaven that He was from hell. They had concluded the very antithesis of the truth and they had blasphemed the Lord and the Holy Spirit who worked through Him. They had committed a crime unequaled in human history.
Now that conclusion leads us to the next passage. Jesus has condemned them in verses 31 and 32. He told them that that kind of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, who was at work through Christ, could never be forgiven. In other words, if you have all of the revelation there is to have – you’ve seen the miracles, you’ve heard His teachings, you’ve seen the quality of His life, you’ve seen His attitude, you’ve been able to be exposed to everything there is about Him - and your conclusion is that He is from the Devil, you are unredeemable. Because you have concluded the very opposite with the fullness of revelation. They were lost and they could never be saved; they were lost forever.
And their words became that which ultimately damned them. Now may I hasten to say, they were not so much damned by their words as their damnation was made evident by what they said. It was clear they were to be damned by the words that came out from within them. It is not that you are damned by your words; it is that you are damned because your words will reveal the corruption of your heart. That is the issue. That is the substance of the passage. So they were, in effect, rendered hopeless in verses 31 and 32 because of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as He ministered through Christ, but their words became the mark of their hopelessness. The words that they spoke were the objective external evidence of their corrupt and vile and wretched, wicked hearts.
Now as a result of that, it is no surprise to us that as we approach verse 33, the Lord begins to speak concerning the tongue. He begins to speak concerning that which men say. He has just experienced the most damning verbiage that men have ever uttered, and it is a perfect place for Him to speak to this issue. And so He talks about the tongue and the mouth in verses 33 to 37. He begins with a parable in verse 33. A parable – listen to it. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for a tree is known by its fruit.” Now that is a parabolic axiom. That is a statement of fact. That is a truism. You have a good tree, you have good fruit. You have a bad tree, you have bad fruit, because the tree and fruit must coincide. That is a simple parabolic truth.
You’ll notice the one note we need to make is the term make there, poieō, which means to make something is used here in a different sense; He is not telling them to manufacture a tree. He is using it in this sense: In John 5:18, our Lord was accused of making Himself equal with God. Several other places in John’s gospel, in chapter 8 verse 53 and chapter 10 verse 33, the term make is also used to refer to something that you think about or consider or ponder. And that’s the way it’s used here. “Consider the tree good and its fruit good, or else consider the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt.” The idea is to consider or to regard something or to suppose something. The term poieō then refers to mental activity. In your thinking or in your judging or in your evaluating, you must be consistent, is what He’s saying. You must be consistent. The tree and its fruit must coincide; that is axiomatic.
Now, what does He mean by this? He means, “You cannot say that I am evil, that I am satanic, if what I am doing is good.” And they recognized what He was doing as good because their own sons, according to verse 27, were casting out demons. And they were recognizing that as a good thing, and of course they would. They represented God, supposedly. And so the Lord is saying, “How can you say, when I cast out demons – which your own disciples also do – how can you say that I am evil, when you acknowledge that that is a good thing to do. If that which I do is good, then the tree is good; but if I am evil, then doing that is evil. And if doing that is evil, then your own disciples are doing evil.” So they were trapped. You see? They were trapped. They had to either say that what their own disciples were doing in their own casting out of demons – which they may or may not have actually been doing, but claimed to have been doing – was either good or evil. And if they said it was good, then Jesus had to be good. If they said it was evil, then they had to be evil. And they had just reversed that, you see. They were good and Jesus was evil.
Now this simple parable is common to our Lord. He uses it in seventh chapter of Matthew, as we saw earlier. In verse 17, he talks here about false shepherds, and He says, “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, a corrupt tree bringeth forth bad fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” And then in verse 20 He says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” In the sixth chapter of Luke and verse 43 and 44, He basically uses the same idea again. “A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” So it’s a very simple parable. “Make up your minds,” He says. If a tree is good, its fruit is good. If it’s fruit is good, the tree is good. If it’s an evil tree, it must have evil fruit. The quality of the fruit is the reflection of the tree that produced it, and the fruit of the Lord’s ministry was good. They couldn’t deny that. They couldn’t deny that it was good to cast demons out of people. They couldn’t deny that and maintain their theological posture. They could not deny that it was good to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind. They knew that disease was a result of sin.
In fact, they even pushed that so far that they felt that if a person had a disease, they actually had sinned to get it or their parents had. So they knew sin and disease were connected, and so the deliverance from disease was to deliver one from the consequence of sin. They knew that was good. The healing of the blind, the giving hearing to the deaf, they giving of voice to the dumb, they knew that was good. They couldn’t deny that it was good. And as a result, they were stuck with the fact that if Jesus did good things, He must be a good person. They had to be consistent in their argument. Our Lord exposed them again. You see, the Pharisees could be exposed so easily, because no matter what they tried to parade, their evil hearts were so vile and so wicked and so wretched that their reasoning was absurd and illogical and selfish. And Jesus exposed them so very often publicly.
Now what He’s basically saying here is that the character of His own life should have been clear to them from what He accomplished. You know, this is John’s argument, and I’m not going to go to it this morning because of time, but if you were to look at the tenth chapter of John, in three different verses there – 25, 37, and 38 – Jesus says through John’s gospel, “If you have trouble believing Me” – in other words, affirming who I really am – “then believe Me for My works’ sake. How else can you explain what I do than that I am from God?” And the same thing is true in John 9, where the Pharisees come to question the man who was born blind, and now he can see, and they ask the question, “Where is He from?” And the man says, “You mean I used to be blind and now I see, and you can’t figure out where He’s from?” It’s obvious! And so Jesus indicts them publicly before the whole crowd that has gathered here and says, “You are absurd. You are illogical – inconsistent in your claim against Me.”
Now then from the parable, He goes to the second point – the personalization. He doesn’t just leave the parable out there, He applies it and He applies it in a very, very strong way in verse 24 – or 34, rather. Look what He says, “O generation of vipers! How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” You see, that is the personalization of His parable. Isn’t it? What in the world would we expect out of you but rotten stuff, when you are evil to begin with? Now Jesus was consistent in His evaluation. There was a corrupt tree, and so He didn’t expected anything but corrupt fruit. The vile blasphemy which they uttered from their lips gave clear evidence of what was in their hearts. They were corrupt trees that brought forth corrupt fruit.
Notice what He calls them, “O generation of vipers.” Now that, believe it or not, was a favorite phrase used by our Lord. Now He wouldn’t win any points with Dale Carnegie – how to win friends and influence people. He wouldn’t fit very well into that accommodating, kind of lovey-dovey approach that doesn’t want to confront anybody about anything. But Jesus, when rebuke needed to be given, gave it without hesitation. And there were several occasions in which He called the Pharisees a generation of vipers, and that was about as fierce an accusation as He could utter to them. In the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, He does that. It is and also recorded in Luke 3:7, and the one who initiated that title was John the Baptist in Matthew 3 verse 7, when he called them also a generation of vipers. Now keep in mind that this is in front of a large gathering.
Very often, when I am speaking, I will make reference to some false teachers or some false doctrines or some false teaching or a church or a supposed church that is not biblical or not legitimate and teaching error and heresy and so forth. And someone will – and I try to do it in a way that is understandable and yet with some strength. And someone invariably will come to me and said, “You know, if there was anyone here who was a part of that group, they would have been greatly offended.” And I often think to myself, “At least I didn’t say, ‘You generation of vipers.’” And I’m not even close to the attitude of the Lord. I think there is a time and a place to say that, and it is to be said most fiercely against those who propagate a false religion as if it were the true one, because that is what damns men’s souls - the false security of a false system. Jesus reserved statements like this for religious false shepherds.
Now what does the phrase mean? Well a viper is a name for a snake, and it had to do with a poisonous snake. That’s really what the perspective of the passage is. The Lord would have been well-acquainted with the many snakes in that land of Palestine. They ranged from very small to somewhat large vipers. The majority of them were sort of small, and they were common in the desert. In fact, their color even hid them. Sometimes looked like dead branches, sometimes just like the soil around, sometimes beneath rocks or trees, in the shade or in caves they would hide and a man unwarily would come near, and they would clamp their teeth into a man and sink them down in, pumping in their poison and clinging to the individual’s flesh. That was the case in Acts 28 and verse 3 of the Apostle Paul who had a viper cling onto him and bite down into him and not be willing to release itself. Job spoke of the tongue of the viper that will kill. And that’s really the idea. They are dangerous, poisonous snakes.
Now why does He select vipers? Well, because they were perhaps the most dangerous creature in that part of the world. They were the subtlest to be sure, the most deceitful. And I also think because in a sense they represent the Old Serpent himself, that old serpent the Devil and Satan, the original snake in Eden. The one who is the father, if you will, of these other vipers. They descended from the Devil himself. They were filled with the poison of deadly legalism, filled with the poison of self-righteousness, the poison of fatal hypocrisy, the poison of treachery and moral filth, self-righteousness. And they pumped that into their victims.
The word generation could also be translated brood. It could be generation in the sense that they’re generated from Satan. It could also be the idea of a brood. These snakes were produced out of their mothers at a rate of 12-50 in volume. And whenever they appeared, this little group of Pharisees moving around, they looked to Jesus like a brood of snakes, all co-mingled together with evil, poisonous intent. And so Jesus calls them subtle killers with poisoned tongues.
And then after that greeting to them, He says this, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” And He applies His parable. “How could we expect anything else out of your mouth than blasphemy? We wouldn’t expect anything else because you are evil.” Now notice the statement being evil. That is a monumental theological statement. That is a statement of the depravity of the human heart. They didn’t just do evil; they were evil in their very being. And that is the legacy of the fall of Adam, that men are born into the world in sin. And that is why Paul says, “All have sinned.” That’s why Paul says to the Ephesians, “You were dead in trespasses and sins.” In other words, man is born in sin. David said in Psalm 51:4, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Jeremiah said, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
The Bible, from Old Testament to New Testament, chronicles the heart of man. It shows his heart in all times, in all climates, in all circumstances, and his heart is ever and always evil. The depravity, the corruption of the sin nature is passed from Adam down through every man as poison is carried from the fountain to the bucket that draws it. And so all man born into the world is evil. As Isaiah said, “The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint.” And man without God abides in that evil being and produces only evil products, only evil fruit. As 1 Samuel 24:13 so well says, “As saith the proverb of the ancients, ‘Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked.’” So Jesus says, applying the parable, “We would expect vile things from vile people,” and that is the case. They speak because of who they are.
From there, He moves to the third thing, which we’ll call the principle, at the end of verse 34. And here He directly states the principle that He has in mind. “For out of the abundance of the heart” – what? – “the mouth speaketh.” Whatever you are on the inside is going to come out of your mouth. That is the major principle of this passage. The Pharisees blasphemed Jesus; they came to condemn Jesus. Jesus turns the table right around and says, “You can’t condemn Me. I do good, therefore I must be good. Your vile blasphemy shows that you condemn yourselves because if that comes out of your mouth, then that is what is in your heart. And we could not expect anything different from you, being evil.” This is one of the most definitive, one of the most far-reaching, one of the most important, and one of the most practically applicable principles in all of Scripture.
Let’s look at some terms in that principle at the end of verse 34 so that you’ll understand what it is saying. The heart is the basis of our thinking - our thought, our mind, our will, our source of knowledge. To us, heart sometimes means emotion, but the idea here is the place of thinking, reasoning, the mind, and the will. To illustrate that, look a couple of chapters later in Matthew chapter 15, and let me show you just two verses. Matthew 15 verse 18, and here you have a very expanded statement of exactly what we just saw in verse 34, the same principle. “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile a man.” In other words, the man is defiled publicly. He is defiled in the view of those around him; it is known that he is a defiled man by what he speaks, and what he speaks comes out of his heart. Verse 19 then says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.” So the heart then is the thinking place. Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies, all those start in the thought processes and then work their way out the mouth and out in the activity. But the mouth can only produce what is in the heart. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, all the rest, and finally, blasphemies. So if you have blasphemy on your mouth, then you have blasphemy in your heart. And that is Jesus’ indictment.
Now you can go back to Matthew chapter 12. So He says, “And your thinking process is this vile blasphemy, and it’s going to come out in your mouth.” Now notice He says, “Out of the abundance of the heart,” and He uses the word perisseuma, which means a superabundance or an overflow. It is a surplus, and the word implies an excess. It’s as if the heart is full, just jammed full, and it’s got to have an overflow valve and the mouth is that valve. The heart is full and the mouth is the spillover. The mouth is the overflow valve to what is in the reservoir, so that when your heart overflows with thought and intent, your mouth is going to be the spill-out. A man’s character is known by his mouth. That which is in the heart of a man is going to come to the surface most obviously through his mouth. I don’t have to talk to a man very long or on very many different occasions to find out whether in his heart is pure, wholesome thinking or lustful, evil, dirty thinking. I don’t have to listen to him very long to find out whether his heart is kind and gentle and thoughtful, or cruel, because it is going to come out of his mouth.
Look with me for a moment at the thirty-second chapter of Job. And Job is a book full of verbiage, lots of people giving lots of answers about a lot of things. An awful lot of talk, speech after speech. Elihu decides to get his two cents in in chapter 32. He’s listened to everybody else talk, and he’s just about to die until he can give his own speech. And I want you to get a little idea of how the heart spills over in the mouth. Job 32 verse 17, “I said, ‘I will answer also my part. I will show mine opinion. For I am full of the matter. The spirit within me constraineth me. Behold my belly is like wine which hath no vent. It is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may be refreshed.” And you can stop there. In other words, “I got to get relief, and the only way I can get relief from what’s spilling all over the place in my heart is to open my mouth and let it out.” Well, that simply illustrates how the mouth works. It is the place where the heart gushes. And you can say a lot of things about what you’re really like, but sooner or later, when your mouth speaks involuntarily in stress or in anger or in impatience or in isolation or when you’re not with Christians, you’ll reveal what’s inside your heart.
Now go back to this principle, then, in Matthew 12:34. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” And I don’t need to take time to show you that this principle is all throughout the Scripture; you can do that yourself. You read the tenth chapter Proverbs, the twelfth chapter, the thirteenth chapter, the fourteenth chapter, the fifteenth chapter, the eighteenth chapter; you read the first part of the sixty-fourth Psalm, and in all of those places and many more, you’re going to find this same principle illustrated or commented upon.
In the New Testament, you’re going to find the same thing. For example, if you go to that very familiar little epistle that deals with the tongue, the Epistle of James, you read in chapter 1 verse 26, “If any man among you seem to be religious and brideleth not his tongue but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is empty.” You find in chapter 3 verse 8, the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. No man can tame it. “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” And you find when Paul begins to sum up the sinfulness of man in Romans 3, as he comes to the climax of man’s vile character, he says, “Their throat is an open sepulchre. With their tongues they have used deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” The mouth becomes the ultimate demonstration, as it were, of the evil heart. Whatever is in the heart is going to come out the mouth. Proverbs 23:7 puts it this way, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Now let’s look at the principle expanded in verse 35. And he just sort of applies it. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things. And an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” That’s so simple it’s almost infantile. Obviously you can only bring out what you’ve got inside. If you open a box, you’re only going to take out of there what’s in it. Right? And you’ve got a box, as it were, in you. The word treasure there is thēsauros - a storehouse, a reservoir, a treasure chest, a chamber, a box. It’s the word used in Matthew 2:11 when the wise men came and they brought their treasures; they brought their boxes and in the boxes they had their gifts.
And you have within you a box, as it were. You have a chamber within you, a reservoir, and the only thing you can get out of that thing is what is in that thing. And if you’re an unbeliever and don’t know God, in you dwelleth no good thing. And so you can’t get any one out of there, because it’s not in there. And you can only bring evil out of the treasure because all there is is evil in the treasure. You’re a computer, that’s all. If there’s garbage in, there’s garbage out, and you can’t violate that. Every man’s heart is a storehouse, and what is stored there will spill out of his mouth. So the Lord then says, you can be judged by that. The objective criteria by which God can determine your eternal destiny can be the record of what you say, for an evil person will not utter anything that is truly good. But a good person made good by the grace of God and the transformation of his heart will utter good things. Oh yes, and evil as well, as we endeavor to overcome the flesh. But an unregenerate person can say no good thing, can do no truly good thing. That is, no thing which advances the kingdom of God and ultimately glorifies Him. So a good man, agathos – truly good; an evil man, ponēros – depraved and truly evil – will manifest himself by what he says. That is a simple thing. The Lord has indicted them and said, “You’re the vile ones, as is made obvious by the vile nature of your blasphemy. It just reveals your heart. If you were good, you would be saying good things.”
Therefore, we come to the fourth point, the punishment, verses 36 and 37. “ I say unto you, every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Now some people have a problem understanding that we will ultimately be judged on our works and on our words. We saw that in Romans chapter 2 where it says that God will render to every man according to his deeds. And here it says He will judge men according to their words. By your works and your words will come your eternal judgment. What this says is not to obviate or negate salvation by grace through faith, but simply to show you that salvation by grace through faith will demonstrate itself in good works, good words, so that they become the objective criteria by which God can make that judgment. The words of men are accurate gauges of their hearts. If you have a transformed heart and Jesus Christ has come into your life and transformed your heart, then you will speak words by which God will justify you. If Christ has never changed your heart, then you will speak words by which God will condemn you.
Now this doesn’t mean we’re not saved by grace. We are saved by grace through faith, that not of works, lest any man should boast. But the next verse says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created . . . unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We’re saved by grace through faith unto works and words, and the works and the words prove that the faith has been there. So that God can look objectively at your words and know whether you’ve been redeemed, and so can you. So if you have any question about whether you’re saved, listen to yourself when you talk when nobody is around or when you’re angry or when you’re irritated or upset or thoughtless. Words will reveal what is in your heart.
Let’s start at verse 37 in the last phrase, “By thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Every person is responsible for what he says, and if he rejects Jesus Christ, then he is going to be responsible for the result of it, which will be a lifetime of useless, empty, words – evil words. And I really believe primarily, of course, this applies to unbelievers, to the wicked. They will be condemned by their words. And I think the judgment here is primarily the judgment of the Great White Throne – ultimate eternal judgment, and Christians aren’t going to be there. Our sins have already been dealt with; they’ve been cared for at Calvary; they’ve been dismissed at Calvary. Sure, we’ve sinned with our tongues, we’ve sinned with our mouths, but ours are under the covering of Christ. But these others with unbelieving hearts are going to have nothing but evil words, and by those words they will be condemned. They will be condemned then subjectively by their lack of faith in Christ, and objectively by the words of their mouth and the deeds of their life.
In fact Luke 19:22 says it simply, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.” You see, when God comes to the time when He judge the evil people in Revelation 20, He opens books, and I believe those books have in them all the deeds and all the words of these people. And you can run through all the deeds and all the words and find no good thing, and He keeps the full record. The full record is kept – the full record. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but scientists say that our voices set in motion sound waves, and those sound waves go on an endless journey through space. And had we instruments delicate enough to do it, we could pick up every word uttered by every human being that’s ever lived on the face of the earth since man was first created, because their words are still floating around the universe. We can’t recover those words, but God can.
Recently I heard about a man in London who turned on his television set to watch the BBC and he received a program that shocked him, coming directly from a city in the middle of Texas. He called up the BBC in his area and they said, “We’re not broadcasting anything of the sort.” After watching the program, which lasted for half an hour, I guess, he called the state of Texas, the city where it came from and said, “Have you been broadcasting this into England?” They said, “Absolutely not.” He described the program. He said, “That program left this station to be broadcast on a day over three years ago. We don’t know how you picked it up.” Everything is out there floating around. I don’t know how he picked it up either, but it’s all out there. And there is an accountability in every one of our lives for everything that we say, and God has a way of recovering all of that and using it in that time of judgment to indict the ungodly.
But it also says in verse 37, “By thy words thou shalt be justified.” Now what does that mean? That means that a believer is going to be ultimately justified objectively by his words. We are saved by our faith in Christ, but it is manifest in our words so that our words can become a valid criteria by which our salvation can be made obvious, patent, manifest. When there is a transformed heart, there will be a transformed mouth, because out of the abundance of the heart – what? – the mouth speaks. Well, every once in a while, my mouth sounds a lot like my old self. Doesn’t yours? But still there are times when it is definitely representative of my new heart. You see, an unbeliever can never speak good things – I mean, really good, ultimately good. And we’ll see that in a moment. But a believer will speak good things, though often also evil things. That’s the difference. But we will be justified by our mouth.
What does this saying to you? Listen, there is no such thing as proving your salvation apart from some objective observation and demonstration. The Bible says you’re saved by the manifestation of good works and good words; that is, your salvation is made visible, obvious, verified, validated. So don’t come to me and say you know somebody who’s a Christian but they just don’t show it. There’s no such thing. We don’t show it enough, but we show it, because we are created unto good works.
Now with that judgment in mind, based on words, then go back to verse 36. Consequently, we have to give an account for every idle word that we speak. Now this is tremendous accountability. Now if He’d have said, “For every blasphemous word,” then we would only feel accountable for blasphemies. So He says every idle word, every useless word – is what it means – useless, barren, unproductive, careless. It isn’t just the worst of our words; it’s all of our words that are useless. We are accountable for all of them.
Now take the unbeliever. How does this relate to him? And he is the main object, because He’s speaking here about the Pharisees. What does this idle idea mean? Well, first of all, it means useless – words of no value, no purpose, barren, unproductive, no good product, ineffective in promoting God’s kingdom and God’s glory. Now they may be words that are nice. They might be nice little words like, “I love you,” to their children or, “I love you,” to their wife or words of kindness and comfort and gentleness, sometimes words of truth and wisdom, but they are useless in promoting the kingdom of God, in advancing the name of Christ and exalting God’s glory. They cannot do that. At best, they are humanly good, but not divinely good. Do you understand? They are earthly. They are trapped in the plane of the passing. And so they are useless in terms of the advance of the kingdom, in terms of the exaltation of the Son of God. In terms of the glory of God, they are useless, purposeless, ineffective; they do not promote those kinds of things. And in God’s eyes, that which is good is good because of the fact that it gives glory to God. You see? That is true goodness, and the unregenerate man cannot do that. So his words, at the very best, are useless. And all of his useless words – and we could even say this verse another way, “I say to you that every useless word you speak.” And it’s not that He’s saying, “Every useless word,” but, “Every word you speak is useless.” Because even at their best, they are useless in terms of promoting ultimate good, ultimate glory, and the kingdom of God.
Now listen to me, if men then are going to be judged for their useless words, think how much they’ll be judged for their blasphemous words. The unbelieving world – just think about the verbiage in our world. I mean, talk, talk, talk, everybody’s doing his 25,000 to 30,000. Everybod’s writing his 264 200-page books every year. Everyone is talking, talking, talking, opinions and opinions. The sum of all of those in terms of actual goodness to the advance of the kingdom of God, the exaltation of the Son of God, and the glory of God is nil – nothing. They’re all idle words, and they’ll be accountable for the fact that in their whole lifetime, they spoke no thing that advanced the kingdom of God, no thing that gave glory to Jesus Christ or the Father.
Now there’s another thought that came to mind as I was studying this term idle also, and that is that it is sometimes used to refer to careless – to careless, and that’s a little different than useless. Careless words seems to me to speak of those words uttered in a thoughtless way, the thoughtless words that kind of just escape. You know, some of us can kind of protect ourselves because we calculate our hypocrisy, and we say the right thing at the right place and the right time. You know? I mean we don’t talk here the way we talk at home. You understand that. We don’t talk here the way we talk at work, or we don’t talk here the way we talk on the phone when we gossip, or we don’t talk here at church the way we talk to our brothers or sisters, to our mom and dad about our teacher, or the kids at school, or to the people we’re camping with, or whatever. In other words, we have sort of a calculated hypocrisy. We sort of have this holy talk that we pull out when we need it. But then there are those times when we’re careless and we’re not careful. We get angry; we get upset; we get anxious; we get fearful; we get irritated; we get frustrated; and then it comes out - the careless words. And they really reveal what is going on down there. In public, we may appear noble, whereas in private, we are vile. And the real you will be manifest when you speak in anger, when you speak in hatred, when you speak in irritation, when you speak in isolation with no other Christian present, and you really let fly what’s inside. The unredeemed mouth will reveal itself. And you know whether what you say that sounds so good is just hypocritical holy talk or not, because you know what you talk like the rest of the time.
What comes out of an unredeemed mouth? What is basic to an unredeemed mouth? What are the idle, careless words which men must give an account for? Well the Bible says they are evil words, for the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. They are lustful words, for the lips of an adulterous woman drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech. They are deceitful words; the tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceit. They are cursing words; his mouth is full of curses. They are oppressive words; his mouth is full of oppression, says the Bible. They are lying words; lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. They are perverse or false words; a wicked man is one who speaks with a false mouth. They are destructive words; by the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked, it is torn down.
They are vain words, for speaking out arrogant words of vanity. They entice, said Peter. They are flattering words, a flattering mouth works ruin. They are foolish words; the mouth of a fool spouts folly. They are mad words; the lips of a fool consume him and the end of it is madness. They are multiplied words; the fool multiplies his words. They are false words; empty talkers, teaching for sordid gain. They are evil words; the wicked plot against the righteous and gnash at him with his teeth. They are prideful words; in the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride. They are hateful words; they have surrounded me with words of hatred. They are swearing words; the Bible says swear not at all. They are filthy words; let no rotten communication come out of your mouth. They are gossipy words; gossips and slanderers, like dainty morsels, they go down into the innermost parts of a body.
Those are the words of an unredeemed mouth, and those are the words by which they will be condemned. Now there are times, as I said, when they may speak kind words, but those words cannot ultimately bring any good, so they are idle words. These are the careless words, so they are condemned by that which they cannot say and that which they do say. And they are accountable. You’ll be accountable to God, and every one of the things you’ve ever uttered out of your mouth is still there, somewhere in this universe, and God captures it and puts it in the book.
But what about believers? Does this say anything to us? I think it does, because in verse 37, it says, “By thy words thou shalt be justified,” so we know believers must be here somewhere. When it comes time for our eternal destiny to be made manifest, God can look at our words and know we are the redeemed because it will be obvious from what we say and how we speak. And so I believe if we are in verse 37, we can certainly learn from verse 36 that we too are accountable for what we say. And though the day of judgment surely speaks of eternal judgment and eternal destiny, there is even for us a time of judgment, a time now of chastening and a time future of rewards. And though that is not the main thrust of the passage, it certainly does no injustice to the truth to speak of it.
I believe, as Christians, we are accountable to God for what we say. And if we speak evil words along with those good words that our new heart produces, we’re going to be accountable to God for that and we may be chastened, and in the day of the Bema Judgment, we may lose our reward. We have to learn to tame our tongues too. Oh, there are those good things, those times we praise and thank God, those times we exalt Christ, those times we speak truth and wisdom, those times we utter with the very voice of God, as it were, that prove we are the redeemed. But then there are those times when that bitter water comes out of the same fountain and James says, “These things ought not to be.” And Paul says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” What does salt do? It prevents corruption. Our voice and speech should never contribute to anyone’s corruption; it should always prevent that. Salt also has a way of adding flavor, and so our speech should be charming, should be winsome, should cause laughter and joy in the right way at the expense of no one. Our speech should be spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, loving, purposeful, edifying, gentle, truthful speech, and we should pray what the psalmist prayed in Psalm 141 verse 3, when he said, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips.”
So beloved, when you speak your 25,000 today, listen to what you are saying. What does it tell you? When you write your book of 50-60 pages today, were you to print it and pass it around, what would it say about your heart? What would it say about who you really are? Would it betray the fact that you don’t know God, or would it reveal the fact that you do and not only do you, but there isn’t even inconsistency? You know God and walk in obedience to Him so that your speech is with grace, seasoned with salt? Well, let’s pray.
Our Lord, we would speak as You would speak if You were here on earth. We would be Your voice, speak Your words. May the Holy Spirit guard our lips, set a watch over the door of our mouth that we may speak the words of a justified heart. Lord, we know that the Pharisees spoke evil because they were evil, because a corrupt tree brings forth corrupt fruit, and they were thus condemned by their own mouths. We pray, Lord, that if there are some in our midst this morning who are self-condemned by the fact that they can speak no good thing, no thing ultimately good to the advance of Your glorious kingdom, may this be the day that they come to Christ. And may they, in simple faith, open their heart, inviting Jesus Christ to come in. Give them a new heart, a clean heart, and out of that clean heart, begin to speak the words of a justified soul, the words of a good tree, that they might manifest Your presence.
And Lord, even as Christians, we know that there are times when out of that fountain comes the bitter as well. Help us to seek the Spirit’s control over our speech, that when we open our mouth, it may always be that which edifies each other and glorifies Thee, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
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