Words are important. We use words communicate with our friends and family. We use our words to conduct business. I use words to put songs together and make a living. We use words to discipline our children. Politicians use words to convince you that they’re the best candidate for the job. Words are a huge part of every aspect of our lives. I have a new son. It’s hard to live with a person seven weeks old, mainly because they can’t talk. So sometimes I want to help him but don’t know how because he can’t communicate with words yet. It’s hard to imagine a world without words.
The average person says about 16,000 words a day. That’s 112,000 words every week. That’s over five million words every year. We use words. A lot.
And anything that there’s a lot of begins to be undervalued. The value of something changes based on how much of it there is. When there are 100 cookies on a table after service you might keep talking for a while. But when there are only a few cookies, they seem precious. You’ll probably rush over there and if you get one in time, that bite is a lot sweeter. Because we hear and use so many words every day they don’t mean much to us. But we should see them as precious.
Maybe we think only the really important things we say are significant. Maybe we think only what we write down, or only when we have groundbreaking conversations or only when we say what we really think our words matter. I think our verse tonight communicates something very different. Turn with me to Matthew 12:36.
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36)
Jesus says these words in the midst of a conversation with the Pharisees, after they accuse Him of casting out demons by Satan. And so Jesus basically tells them that they’re evil, and can’t say anything good (he has a kind way with words). He tells them that all of our words are the fruit of what’s taken root in our hearts.
And then he drops that bomb on us. That will we have to answer to God for every careless word we speak. This doesn’t only apply to the Pharisees. It’s true for every single one of us. And the following verse is even more frightening. He says, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” But why? Why are our words so important? Why will we be acquitted or condemned based on something as trivial as the words we say?
He makes that clear earlier when He says, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Have you ever felt unfairly judged? Like someone caught you on a bad day when you were mad and judged your entire character on that one day? Well being judged by our words isn’t like that. It’s not like words are just one aspect of our character that don’t define us. We can be accurately judged by our words because they are an accurate reflection of what’s happening in our hearts.
It’s almost like I’m holding a cup, you don’t know what’s in there. I could tell you water is in there, or juice is in there. But if I trip and splash or spill some of that drink, you’ll know exactly what’s in there. It’s the same with our words and our hearts. When we speak, the content of our hearts is spilling out. Our words always show what’s in our hearts, whether good or evil. And as Paul Tripp, an author I read this week, said, “You have never spoken a neutral word in your life.”
Held Accountable for Our Words
Every now and then someone will get caught on tape saying something they never would have said in public. This happened to President Obama when he was talking to the President of Russia. This happened to Mitt Romney last week. They didn’t expect to be held accountable for those words, but they were. Similarly, we think we won’t be held accountable for certain words we speak. We think we say things, and itʼs done, but they will come back to bite us. It’s as if God has hidden cameras all over creation.
There is a day – the text calls it the Day of Judgment – when we will stand before the holy Judge of the entire universe. And when we do our words will stand in as witnesses – either testifying for us or against us. The evidence will be presented.
God will look at the way we spoke to our parents as a child and the way we speak to our spouses or bosses as adults. God will examine the way we spoke to strangers on the street. God will investigate the jokes we told to our co-workers. God will comb through our angry rants in traffic on the drive to work. He’ll even scroll through what we typed on Facebook and Twitter. Even the words we send in text messages or emails. Every single word.
You notice Jesus doesn’t say we will have to give an account for the important words we speak. He says, “every careless word.” The word used for careless is also translated as idle or useless. Every word, no matter how insignificant you think it is. The all-knowing God we talked about this morning, knows every word we’ve ever spoken.
And here’s the thing. Just one ungodly word is enough to condemn us. Which of course means, all of us should be condemned for our words.
Well there are three words, uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ, that supersede every careless word I’ve ever spoken. Those three words are “It. Is. Finished.” After having lived the perfect life, after having only used his words in a way that glorified God, Jesus went to the cross. And when he hung on that cross, he died even for the sins of our speech. And He rose three days later.
And for those of us who put our faith in Christ, yes, there are edifying words we’ve spoken that are fruit of our relationship with Christ. And those words will testify in our favor. But we would still be condemned by all the other words. And praise God that the blood of the Lord Jesus covers those words. If you don’t know Jesus, turn away from your sins and trust in the only one who can forgive you for all of your sins, including the sins of your speech.
So as believers, though we won’t be condemned for our words, we’ll still be held accountable for them. We’ll still have to answer to God for them and we can lose rewards in Heaven.
Some of us are very careful with our money. We make budgets, we balance our checkbooks, we keep our receipts, and we look at our online billing statements. Because we know a lot is at stake. We know we have to steward our money well.
Well that same kind of carefulness, and calculation should be applied to the way we use our words. Because a lot is at stake. And we will answer to God for every one of our words. We should be good stewards of the words we use.
Our words are like hammers. We can recklessly swing them around and break stuff. Or we can use them carefully build stuff. How will you use your words this week? How we used our words this past week will probably show us how we might use them this coming week, unless something changes.
So I want to give three ways that we can use our words well.
I. Talk to God
Of the 16,000 words we use every day, we would be wise to use many of those in conversation with God. Jesus has given us access to the Father, and we should come boldly before His throne often. Our spouses may have problems with being good listeners, but God doesn’t. He always hears our prayers. In fact, He listens very closely.
Often when we’re going through something difficult, the first thing we do is just vent to friends of family. Or maybe we just rant about it out loud to ourselves. What a waste of words. Just last week, I was complaining to my wife about something that was just really bothering me and I was concerned about. And before agreeing or offering any counsel, she just asked me simply, “Have you been praying about it?” And the answer was no. I should have been talking to God about it. That would have been a far better use of my words.
Often venting does nothing more than make us madder. It’s a waste of words sometimes. But talking to God is never a waste of words. There’s no better use of your words. We’re not in control, but He is. So when we need help, instead of just being mad, we should just talk to the One who’s in charge. And if it’s good for us and for His glory, He will grant us our request.
Some of us may be confrontational. And when we have issues with someone, we go right to the person to take care of it. We should remember that talking to God about the situation is more important and effective than talking to the other person. Talk to God about your relational issues before you talk to the other person. Ask Him for help and grace and wisdom. Allow the weight of talking to your Creator to sober you and help you think more clearly.
And we shouldn’t only use our words to ask God for stuff. This is why we have a prayer of praise every Sunday morning. We should just praise Him some times. We should be coming up with unique ways to sing His praises. More than just, “He is good. Thank you God.” The heart that is saturated with love for God finds new ways and new reasons to praise God every day. He is worthy of our praise.
II. Tell the Good News
I can’t think of anything better to tell another person, than the Good News. God has spoken in these last days through His Son Jesus Christ. And we should tell others about Him and what He’s done.
Romans 10 tells us that, “Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.” This is how God saves men and women. When they hear the Gospel and receive it by faith.
I want you to think for a moment about what person in your life needs to hear the Gospel. Is it a family member, a colleague, a neighbor, a barber, a doctor? What person in your life needs to hear the Gospel?
It’s good for us to use our words to build relationships and common ground with our non-Christian friends. It’s good for them to know you care about them. But it’s devastating if we never actually get around to sharing the Gospel with them. It would be devastating if we had 10 conversations about politics, but not one about the Gospel. It would be devastating if we had weekly conversations about sports, but never had any conversations about Jesus. And I’m talking about myself.
Recently, I had family members die. And whenever that happens, it reminds me, that some times it’s good to wait, but sometimes I need to tell folks about Jesus right now. I know my disobedience can’t thwart God’s plans, but that doesn’t mean I should be disobedient. And by all means, follow the leading of the Spirit, but know that He never leads us to put off stuff that needs to be said now. Tell the Good News.
This doesn’t mean that should be our only interaction with non-Christians. But it does mean that it needs to happen. Maybe we should bring them to church and use the sermon as a launching to pad to talk about it. Maybe we point them to a good book or cd that talks about the Gospel (ahem, mine). Find a way to tell the Gospel.
III. Build Up Others (G- Grace)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
That should be the overall guiding principle for our words to other people. Only what is helpful for building others up. Like I said earlier, our words are like hammers. We can break stuff or build stuff. And there are tons of ways to build others up.
Jesus tells us that man does not live off bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. God has spoken precious words. And we should be echoing those precious words to each other every chance we get.
One way is encouragement. I think this is something CHBC does exceptionally well. It actually caught me and my wife off guard when we first came. “Did they just encourage me about the question I asked?” Up under this encouragement is affirmation. Affirm others. Tell them when you see evidences of God’s grace in their lives. Affirm your love for them. Affirm God’s love for them.
Another way is challenging one another. We shouldn’t think “build up” means the same as cute, inspirational sounding words. Sometimes build up looks like rebuke, or correction. Sometimes it looks like challenging a brother or sister and calling them to repent of a sin. This is one of the things we have made a commitment to each other to do – to walk with each other through good times and rough times.
And we happen to be going through a tumultuous time as a church right now. And we need both encouragement and challenging words. Encourage your brothers and sisters in the Gospel. Remind them of God’s sovereignty and His goodness and His promises. And also challenge your brothers and sisters to fight the good fight of faith, to persevere in trusting Jesus. We need that.
Another way you can build others up is by giving good counsel. The most mature decision makers are those who don’t make decisions in isolation. Be available to hear about what’s going on in your brother or sister’s life. And help them think through how God would have them respond. And give biblical counsel.
On the one hand, as a church, we do a great job of having good spiritual conversations. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about things other than Jesus. We can talk about life, and we can talk about sports, just do it in a way that glorifies God.
Some of you need to stop talking so much and others need to start talking more. Some of us need to be quicker to hear. Some of us never use any words. And we need to do more. Speak up. God is working in your life and we want to hear about it. Let all your words be characterized by love. My prayer is that CHBC would be a church characterized by loving words.
As you seek to apply what you’ve heard tonight, don’t make the mistake of just trying to keep track of what you say and just trying to do better. Don’t just tackle this only on the outside.
As we see earlier in the text, what’s stored up in our hearts comes out. We should not think there is a disconnect between the heart and the tongue. So store up good things in your heart and watch them overflow. And when we do that, here is how we should be striving to use our words.
The real way to watch your words is to watch your hearts because they are so closely connected. There is a direct line from the heart to the tongue. Watch your heart, and by doing that, watch your Words. And do all of this by watching the Word.