You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.
Jesus comforts and, at the same time, warns us in Matthew 12:37, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Words can bring life to a situation. Other times, they can spark a forest fire of troubles for yourself and yours. I recall a time on the phone at work when I made a mild jab to an administrative assistant about her boss’s procrastination. She wrote my words down and moments later, used them against me.
The Vice President called me back. Soon after, I was given five months to find a “better fit” somewhere else. My family suffered for months because of that job loss—the price of a few empty words.
Perhaps you haven’t made the mistake I did in speaking out loud what you were thinking, but what if, on some random day, everything you said was recorded and streamed online? What might your words reveal about your inner, most private world? Would you want to hear what you said? “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (v. 34). We all have an occasional pharisaic attitude: pride, deceit, or need for power.
But in verse 35, Jesus adds, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him.” At my 80-year-old father’s wake, I was amazed to hear so many good things about his life. Some told about his encouraging words, others told stories about his generosity and his warm acceptance of people who are different. Hearing these good things then, motivated me to change. That was 25 years ago. What my father had in his heart seemed to plant a seed that began to sprout in mine.
The best of our words, like gentle spring rains, nurture kindness and compassion toward action in those around us. One time I challenged a small group to find a neighbor who needed help and look for ways we could meet their needs. We did and gave them a grocery gift card before Thanksgiving. Words motivated them to love their neighbor. It was a good day.
Are you curious about what you are saying? Reflect on the conversations you have had in the past 24 to 48 hours. Ask, was my tone accepting or critical, my pace thoughtful or careless, my volume mindful or dismissive? In what ways did I reflect my heart? In what ways did I not? Spend some time in prayer and ask God to meet you in those places.
An excellent way to try to grasp the full meaning of the Scriptures is to compare translations. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you go out and buy a bunch of Bibles in different translations. Simply pull up the YouVersion Bible app or visit Biblegateway.com, and you can compare the translations. What new insights stand out to you after you read one or two other translations?