Our words are powerful, however we rarely treat them as such. We plaster them on social media sites without second thought. We selfishly saturate discussions without leaving room for others to speak. All the while we ignore the one thing all of our words have in common:
They will last.
No, not just in the sense that they will hurt or encourage people. Rather, each word you speak will be heard and remembered by God. In Proverbs, King Solomon emphasizes the deep importance of our words by cautioning us to not allow our words to be hasty (Proverbs 29:20), unrestrained (10:19), and even abundant (10:19). Do Jesus’ own words in the twelfth chapter of Matthew not draw our attention? Allow your mind to fully digest this promise:
“I tell you, on the day of judgement 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” – Matthew 12:36&37 ESV
In James we are told, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19). This is James’ challenge to believers, and one that reflects the wise counsel given to us by King Solomon in many passages of Proverbs. Unfortunately not many of us can boast a personality that wields all three of these qualities, let alone two or even one. How often are you quick to hear? How well can you practice being slow to speak? How frequently is your anger not a product of your immediate reaction? No matter the frequency that your answers reflect, we would be wise to heed this high call.
In keeping with the same theme, James speaks even more directly to taming our tongues later in his letter. In the third chapter James likens the tongue to the rudder of a ship and the bit in a horse’s mouth. He then speaks of the great blaze that can be sparked by the small fire that is the tongue. According to the author, all beasts and birds, reptiles and sea creatures can be tamed, but the tongue has met no human master. This may make the tongue sound useless in even trying to control. Nonetheless and evermore, Jesus’ words in Matthew should still be ringing in our ears. If He who is seated at the right hand of his Father will be present to advocate for us on the day of our judgement, it would be to our eternal benefit to submit and obey.
So then, what significance do Jesus’ words of caution serve to those who confess (with their words, mind you) that they follow Christ? Well, according to Jesus, they hold eternal significance. We are told by the King of Heaven that on the day we face our judgement we will either be condemned or justified by our words.
However, before we threaten to give up speaking altogether, we must realize something else: Our words, though they will condemn or justify us, are not the primary thing that we need to be afraid of. The place from which our words proceed is even more important.
Matthew 15 tells us that what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.
Therein lies a truth that many of us shy away from confessing. Our hateful speech, impure motives, and all-but-edifying jargon are all a reflection of what? Our hearts. Our praises, life-giving encouragement, and gentleness are all a reflection of what? Our hearts.
And it is only Jesus who can fix this. If we want to change our words, the transformation must start here, with Him.
As Christians, our words need to be approached with more care, plain and simple. But our desire for God – exuding from our hearts – must be the motivation. The final prize we should be striving towards is knowing God and enjoying Him all the more. The Psalmist Asaph sums this all up in saying, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” This is where our true hope lies and in these words we must rest. Our heart, our flesh, even our words, may fail us countless times. God will be the strength and portion needed to truly sustain us forever.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” – Psalm 19:14
All the while we ignore the one thing all of our words have in common: They will last.