As a budding musician in high school, I joined my first garage band. Thankfully, all recordings of this “music” we made are lost, but I learned some valuable lessons in that band. Chiefly, I discovered that if I was underprepared for rehearsal or a show, there were consequences. I could play along perfectly for 99 percent of a song, but if at one moment I hit the wrong note, the dissonance was obvious, embarrassing us all. I learned that the little things can wreak havoc when not attended to.
The Power of Our Words
Friends, our words are like that—whether spoken, texted, or posted online. They can seem like such little things, but our words can do damage to others and reveal much about ourselves. As Christians, we would do well to carefully consider the words we use, as Jesus himself said in Matthew 12:35-37:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I’d like to examine two brief reasons, from Jesus’s teaching here, that we need to keep watch over our words, with a final warning.
1. Our Words Reveal our Character
Jesus draws a connection here between what comes out of our mouth and what lies in our heart. When we are angry or distressed, we often say things with passion that we regret. We might be tempted to think “that’s just my frustration talking, it’s not the real me.” But Jesus says the opposite. He implies that what comes out of our mouths reveals our true character. As humans we like a glass of water: what is inside spills out when we get bumped. We need his grace to change our hearts so that what is inside is transformed into godliness.
What have your words lately revealed about what is inside you? How are you bringing that to Christ for transformation?
2. Our Words Matter in the End
Jesus also says that none of our words are minor. Even the careless ones will be accounted for before God. When it comes to words, there really is not a time when we should let our guard down. I don’t think this means that there aren’t appropriate times in community relationships that we can’t be honest, but I do think it means that we need to consider others and what honors Jesus, even in our honesty. When you are Christ’s child, simply throwing words out in a spirit of “authenticity” for others to “deal with” is just not an option. Our words can hurt others. Our words can dishonor a holy God. Jesus never wasted words and he holds us to the same standard.
Finally, I’d like to give a warning about how we use words in virtual spaces. With the advent of the internet and the rise of social media, examining how we use words now goes beyond just what we speak. We are accountable to Jesus for the words we type as well. Sometimes, the pseudo-anonymity of a screen can work against us here. Because we are not face-to-face with the people we interact with online, we can feel emboldened to say some things we wouldn’t otherwise say.
However, we must fight to keep watch over these words as well. I could argue that these words might even be more scrutinized than the ones we speak because they are public words. A watching world is there to view them, and they often remain permanently. There is no ability for people to judge tone, and often intentions are easily misunderstood. We must ask ourselves: do our online words reveal the fruit of the Spirit. Yep (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control); or do they contribute to the often chaotic and mean-spirited atmosphere there?
I hope that these words that I have typed have caused you to consider the words that you speak or type today. May we all strive to build one another up as we watch over our words, encouraging one another toward Christ.