Turn with me in your Bible to Matthew 12:33-37. We are looking at this passage this morning as we continue the wonderful experience of the gospel of Matthew. Let me read this section for you to set it in your mind, and then we will 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 bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 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."
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. In a year, if we are just average, we could author 264 books of over 200 pages, just with our words. You can 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 Cheenham, of Limerick, Pennsylvania, in 1955, set a world record for nonstop talking. He talked nonstop for 133 hours. His record was broken by Tim Hardy of Minnesota; in 1975, he talked non-stop 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."
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. 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 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 your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Does it seem startling to you that Jesus said that 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 or condemnation. Does that shock you? 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 11-12, Matthew chronicles the rejection of Christ. In nine chapters, Christ offers Himself, then the tenth chapter, He calls together men who will assist Him in that offer, and in 11-12, there is the open rejection of the people.
Really, it is a fulfillment of John 1:11; He came to His own, and His own received Him not. As we have been moving through chapters 11-12, we have been noting the ascending level of rejection. First, there was doubt, then criticism, then indifference, then open rejection, and finally, blasphemy. They're no longer just wondering, or indifferent; they are no longer just rejecting Him, they are turning on Him in overt, vile blasphemy. That is what we read in Matthew 12:22-32; that is the record of the blasphemy of the Jewish leaders against Jesus Christ.
The substance of their blasphemy is in verse 24, and it is really the key for understanding our passage for today. In that, they say, "This fellow," referring to Christ, "Casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons," and that, of course, 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 (verse 22), they saw the amazement of the people (verse 23), and the people began to wonder if Jesus might not be the Messiah, the Son of David. They were immediately threatened by the musings of the people, and 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.
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 had blasphemed the Lord and the Holy Spirit who worked through Him. They had committed a crime unequaled in human history.
That conclusion leads us to the next passage. Jesus has condemned them in verses 31-32; 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 the revelation there is to have - you have seen the miracles, heard His teachings, seen the quality of His life, seen His attitude, been exposed to everything there is about Him - and your conclusion is that He is from the Devil, then you are unredeemable. This is because you have concluded the very opposite of the truth with the fullness of revelation; they were lost and they could never be saved, they were lost forever. Their words became that which ultimately damned them.
May I hasten to say that 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 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, and the substance of the passage.
They were, in effect, rendered hopeless in verses 31-32 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, vile, wretched, wicked hearts. 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, concerning that which men say. He has just experienced the most damning verbage that men have ever uttered, and it is a perfect place for Him to speak to this issue. So He talks about the tongue and the mouth in verses 33-37.
He begins with a parable in verse 33. "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." That is a parabolic axiom, a statement of fact, a truism. If a tree is good, it has good fruit; if a tree is bad, it has 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' which is poieo, or 'to make something.' It 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 John 8:53 and 10:33, the term 'make' is also used to refer to something that you think about, consider, or ponder. That is the way it is 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 regard something, or to suppose something. The term poieo then refers to mental activity. "In your thinking, or judging, or evaluating, you must be consistent," is what He's saying. The tree and its fruit must coincide; that is axiomatic.
What does He mean by this? He means, "You cannot say that I am evil or satanic, if what I am doing is good." They recognized what He was doing as good because their own sons, according to verse 27, were casting out demons. They were recognizing that as a good thing, and of course they would - they represented God, supposedly.
So the Lord is saying, "How can you say, when I cast out demons, which your own disciples also do, that I am evil? You've acknowledged it 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." They were trapped. They had to either say that what their own disciples were doing, in casting out demons (which they may or may not have actually been doing, but claimed to have been doing), was good or evil. If they said it was good, then Jesus had to be good. If they said it was evil, then their disciples had to be evil, and they had reversed it. They were good, and Jesus was evil.
This simple parable is common to our Lord; He uses it in Matthew 7:17, as we saw earlier. He talks about false shepherds, and says, "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." In Luke 6:43-44, He basically uses the same idea again. "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit."
So it is a very simple parable. "Make up your minds," He says, "If it is a good tree, its fruit is good. If the fruit is good, the tree is good. If it is 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 it was good to cast demons out of people, to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind. They couldn't deny that and maintain their theological posture.
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, he or she actually had sinned to get it, or their parents had. So they knew sin and disease were connected, so the deliverance from disease was to deliver one from the consequence of sin. They knew that was good. The healing of the blind, giving of hearing to the deaf and voice to the dumb - they knew that was good. They couldn't deny that it was good. 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, wicked, and wretched that their reasoning was absurd, illogical, and selfish. Jesus exposed them so very often publicly.
What He is basically saying here is that the character of His own life should have been clear to them from what He accomplished. This is John's argument, and I'm not going to get into it this morning because of time, but if you were to look at John 10, in three different verses (25, 37, and 38), Jesus says through John's gospel, "If you have trouble believing Me," or 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?"
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. 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 was obvious! So Jesus indicts them publicly before the whole crowd that has gathered and says, "You are absurd, illogical, and inconsistent in your claim against Me."
From the parable, He goes to the second point: the personalization. He doesn't just leave the parable out there, He applies it in a very strong way in verse 34. "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things?" That is the personalization of His parable. "What in the world would we expect out of you but rotten stuff, when you are evil to begin with?" Jesus was consistent in His evaluation; there was a corrupt tree, so He expected nothing 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: "Brood of vipers." That, believe it or not, was a favorite phrase used by our Lord. He wouldn't win any points with Dale Carnegie on how to win friends and influence people; He wouldn't fit very well into that accommodating, lovey-dovey kind of approach that doesn't want to confront anyone about anything. But when rebuke needed to be given, Jesus gave it without hesitation.
There were several occasions when He called the Pharisees a generation of vipers, and that was about as fierce an accusation as He could utter to them. In Matthew 23, He does that, and also in Luke 3:7. The one who initiated that title was John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7, when he called them the same thing. Keep in mind that this is in front of a large gathering.
Very often, when I am speaking, I will make reference to false teachers, false doctrine, false teaching, or a supposed church that is not biblical or legitimate and is teaching error and heresy. I try to do it in a way that is understandable, but with some strength. Someone will invariably come up to me and say, "If there was anyone here who is a part of that group, they would have been greatly offended." 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 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. What does the phrase mean? A viper is the name of a poisonous snake, and that's the perspective of the passage. The Lord would have been well-acquainted with the many snakes in the land of Palestine; they ranged from very small to large vipers. The majority of them were sort of small, and common in the desert. In fact, their color even hid them and they sometimes looked like dead branches, or like the soil around. Sometimes they would hide beneath rocks or trees, in the shade or in caves, and a man would unwarily come near. They would clamp their teeth into a man and sink them in, pumping in the poison and clinging to the individual's flesh. That was the case in Acts 28:3, where the Apostle Paul had a viper bite and cling to him, unwilling to release itself. Job spoke of the tongue of the viper that will kill, and that's the idea. They are dangerous, poisonous snakes.
Why does He select vipers? Because they were perhaps the most dangerous creature in that part of the world; they were the subtlest to be sure, the most deceitful. I also think that they represent the Old Serpent himself, Satan, the Devil - the original snake in Eden. He is the father of these other vipers, if you will. They descended from the Devil himself. They were filled with the poison of deadly legalism, self-righteousness, fatal hypocrisy, treachery, and moral filth. They pumped that into their victims.
The word 'brood' could also be translated 'generation.' It could mean generation in the sense that they were generated of Satan, or 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. Whenever this little group of Pharisees appeared, they looked to Jesus like a brood of snakes, all co-mingled together with evil, poisonous intent. So Jesus calls them subtle killers with poisoned tongues.
After that greeting to them, He says this. "How can you, being evil, speak good things?" and He applies the parable. "How could we expect anything else out of your mouths than blasphemy? We wouldn't expect anything else because you are evil." Notice the statement 'being evil.' That is a monumental theological statement, 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. That is why Paul says, "All have sinned," and 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 and all climates and 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.
So every man born into the world is evil. As Isaiah said, "The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint." Man without God abides in that evil being and produces only evil products and fruit. I Samuel 24:13 so well says, "As the proverb of the ancients says, 'Wickedness proceeds 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. Here, He directly states the principle that He has in mind. "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." 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 Him. But 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 is what comes out of your mouth, then that is what is in your heart. We cannot expect anything different from you, being evil." This is one of the most definitive, far-reaching, important, and 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 thoughts, our mind, our will, our source of knowledge. It sometimes means emotion, but the idea here is the place of thinking, reasoning, the mind, and the will.
To illustrate that, look at Matthew 15:18. Here, we have a very expanded statement of what we just saw in verse 34, the same principle. "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man." In other words, the man is defiled publicly, 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. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts." The heart, then, is the thinking place. "Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies," all those start in the thought processes and then work their way out the mouth and in the activity. But the mouth can only produce what is in the heart; out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and all the rest, and finally, blasphemies. So if you have blasphemy on your mouth, then you have blasphemy in your heart. That is Jesus' indictment.
Let's go back to Matthew 12. He says, "Your thinking process is vile blasphemy, and it will come out in your mouth." Notice He says, "Out of the abundance of the heart." 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 jammed full, and it has 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, gentle, and thoughtful, or cruel, because it is going to come out of his mouth.
Look with me at Job 32. Job is a book full of verbiage; lots of people giving lots of answers about a lot of things. There is an awful lot of talk, speech after speech. Elihu decides to put his two cents in in chapter 32. He has listened to everyone else talk, and he's just about to die until he can give his own speech. I want you to get a little idea of how the heart spills over in the mouth.
Job 32:17. "I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief." In other words, "I have to get relief, and the only way I can get relief from what is spilling all over the place in my heart is to open my mouth and let it out." That simply illustrates how the mouth works; it is the place where the heart gushes. You can say a lot of things about what you're really like, but sooner or later, when your mouth speaks involuntarily, in stress, anger, impatience, isolation, or when you're not with Christians, you'll reveal what's inside your heart.
Go back to this principle, then, in Matthew 12:34. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." I don't have to take time to show you that this principle is all throughout the Scripture; you can do that yourself. If you read Proverbs 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 18, the first part of Psalm 64, and many more places, you'll find this same principle illustrated or commented upon. In the New Testament, you'll find the same thing.
For example, in the familiar epistle that deals with the tongue, James, in the first chapter, verse 26, it says, "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless." In James 3:8, it says, "No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Paul, when he 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 tomb; with their tongues they have practiced 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 will come out the mouth. Proverbs 23:7 puts it this way, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."
Let's look at the principle expanded in verse 35. He just applies it. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings 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'll only take out what is in it, right? You've got a box in you, as it were. The word 'treasure' there is thesauros - a reservoir, storehouse, treasure chest, chamber, box. It is the word used in Matthew 2:11 when the wise men came and brought their treasures; they brought their boxes, and in the boxes were their gifts.
You have within you a box, as it were, a chamber, a reservoir, and the only thing that you can get out of it is what is in it. If you are an unbeliever and don't know God, in you dwells no good thing. So you can't get any good out of it, because there is no good in there. You can only bring evil out of the treasure because all there is is evil in the treasure. You're a computer; if there is garbage in, there is 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 says, then, that 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, 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.
A good man, agathos, truly good, and an evil man, poneros, 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 36-37. "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."
Some people have a problem understanding that we will ultimately be judged on our works and on our words. We saw that in Romans 2, where it says that God will render to every man according to his deeds. 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 and good words, so that they become the objective criteria by which God can make that judgment.
The words of men are accurate gagues 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.
This does not 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, Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
We are saved by grace through faith unto works and words. The works and the words prove that the faith has been there. So God can look objectively at your words and know whether you've been redeemed, and so can you. If you have any question about whether you're saved, listen to yourself when you talk when no one is around, or when you're angry, irritated, upset, or thoughtless. Words will reveal what is in your heart.
Let's start at verse 37 and the last phrase. "By your words you will be condemned." Every person is responsible for what he says, and if he rejects Jesus Christ, then he will be responsible for the result of it, which will be a lifetime of useless, empty, evil words. I believe primarily, this applies to unbelievers, the wicked. They will be condemned by their words. I think that judgment here is primarily the judgment of the Great White Throne; ultimate eternal judgment. Christians aren't going to be there because our sins have already been dealt with, cared for and dismissed at Calvary. Sure, we've sinned with our tongues and mouths, but ours are under the covering of Christ. But these others with unbelieving hearts are going to have nothing but unbelieving words, and by those words they will be condemned.
They will be condemned subjectively by their lack of faith in Christ, and objectively by the words of their mouth and the deeds of their life. Luke 19:22 says it simply, "Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant." You see, when God comes to the time to judge the evil people in Revelation 20, He opens books. I believe those books have in them all the deeds and words of these people. You can run through all the deeds and words and find no good thing, and He keeps the full record.
In fact, I don't know if you know this, but scientists say that our voices set in motion sound waves. Those sound waves go on an endless journey through space. Had we instruments delicate enough to do it, we could pick up every word uttered by every human being that has 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 to watch the BBC and he received a program that shocked him, coming directly from a city in the middle of Texas. He called the BBC in his area and they told him they were broadcasting nothing of that sort. After watching the program, which lasted for half an hour, he called the state of Texas and the city where it came from and said, "Have you been broadcasting this into England?" They said, "Absolutely not." He described the program, and they 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 out there.
There is an accountability in all 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 your words you will be justified." What does that mean? That means that a believer will ultimately be 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 the mouth speaks.
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, really and ultimately good things. We'll see that in a moment, but a believer will speak good things, although often also evil things. That's the difference. But we will be justified by our mouth.
What is this saying to you? 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 someone who is a Christian but they just don't show it, because there is no such thing. We don't show it enough, but we show it, because we are created unto good works.
With that judgment in mind, based on words, go back to verse 36. Consequently, we have to give an account for every idle word that we speak. This is tremendous accountability. If He had said, "For every blasphemous word," then we would only feel accountable for blasphemies. So He says, "Every idle, useless word." 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.
Take the unbeliever. How does this relate to him? He is the main object, because he's speaking here about the Pharisees. What does the idea of 'idle' mean? First of all, it means useless. Words of no value, barren, no purpose, unproductive, no good product, ineffective in promoting God's Kingdom and glory. They may be words that are nice, 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 and advancing the name of Christ and exalting God's glory; they cannot do that.
At best, they are humanly good, but not divinely good. They are earthly, trapped in the plane of the passing. So they are useless in terms of the advance of the Kingdom, the exaltation of the Son of God, or the glory of God; they are useless, purposeless, ineffective - they do not promote those kinds of things. In God's eyes, that which is good is good because of the fact that it gives glory to God; that is true goodness, and the unregenerate man cannot do that.
So his words, at the very best, are useless. We could even say this verse another way: "I say to you that every useless word you speak." And He's not 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.
Listen, if men are going to be judged for their useless words, think how much they'll be judged for their blasphemous words. The unbelieving world - think about the verbage in our world. It's forever talking, with everyone doing his 25,000-30,000 a day. Everyone is writing his 264 200-page books every year. Everyone is talking, talking, talking with 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 are 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.
There was another thought that came to mind as I was studying this term 'idle' and that is that it is sometimes used to refer to careless. That is a little different than useless. Careless words seem to me to speak of those words uttered in a thoughtless way, the thoughtless words that kind of just escape. Some of us can protect ourselves because we calculate our hypocrisy and say the right thing at the right place and the right time. We don't talk here the way we talk at home, right? We don't talk here the way we talk at work, or on the phone when we gossip, or the way we talk to our brothers, sisters, mom, or dad about our teacher, or the kids at school, or the people we go camping with, or whatever.
In other words, we have sort of a calculated hypocrisy, this holy talk that we pull out when we need it. But then there are those times when we're careless and not careful; we get angry, we get upset, anxious, fearful, irritated, frustrated, and then it comes out - the careless words. They really reveal what is going on inside. In public, we may appear noble, whereas in private, we are vile. The real you will be manifest when you speak in anger, in hatred, in irritation, in isolation with no other Christian present, and you really let fly what is inside. The unredeemed mouth will reveal itself. You know whether what you say that sounds so good is really 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 it? What are the idle, careless words for which men must give an account? 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, for the tongue is a deadly arrow which speaks deceit. They are cursing words; his mouth is full of curses. They are oppressive words; his mouth is full of oppression, says the Scripture.
They are lying words, for lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. They are perverse, 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 their 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. There are times 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. They are accountable; you will be accountable to God and every one of the things you've every uttered out of your mouth is still there, somewhere in this universe, and God captures it and it is in the book.
What about believers? Does this say anything to us? I think it does, because in verse 37, it says, "By your words will you be justified," so we know that 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. So I believe that if we are in verse 37, we can certainly learn from verse 36 that we too are accountable for what we say. 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. Though that is not the main thrust of the passage, it certainly does no injustice to the truth to speak of it.
I believe that, as Christians, we are accountable to God for what we say. If we speak evil words along with those good words that our new heart produces, we are going to be accountable to God for that and we may be chastened in the day of the bema judgment, we may lose our reward. We have to learn to tame our tongues too. There are those good things, those times we praise and thank God, those times we exalt Christ, and speak truth and wisdom, when 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." 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, so our speech should be charming, 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 141:3, 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 and 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? Let's pray.
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. They were thus condemned by their own mouths. We pray, Lord, that if there are some in our midst this morning that 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. May they, in simple faith, open their heart, inviting Jesus Christ to come in. give them a new heart, a clean heart, and let them, out of that new heart, begin to speak the words of a justified soul, the words of a good tree, that they might manifest Your presence.
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 might always be that which edifies each other and glorifies You, for Christ's sake, Amen.
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