Beware of idle words


Several years ago, Joe was a deacon at the first church I was Pastor at while I was in seminary in North Carolina. Joe was a giving man who would do anything for anyone, but he had a mischievous streak that was a mile long. While I was just getting settled in as Pastor, I didn’t realize Joe was a prankster.  I soon learned that Joe didn’t do just any pranks. No sir, when Joe got you, he got you good.

Joe found out I was going to make a first time visit to one of the oldest women in our church, a lady named Patty who was almost ninety years old. She was a widow who lived not far from me in a little brick house right on the main highway. Joe came over to see me and with a twinkle in his eyes began to talk with that classic eastern North Carolina accent where “about” sounds like “aboot.”

“Now, preacher, you make sure you get Patty to tell you a joke while you’re visiting her today,” he said.

I replied, “A joke?”

“Oh, yes,” said Joe. “Don’t leave without getting a joke out of her.”

I laughed Joe off and went my way to Patty’s home. We talked a while and, just in general conversation, I mentioned to her that one of our church members said she told jokes.

“Really?” She said with an unsure look on her face. “Someone let you know I told jokes?”

“Sure,” I continued. “So, I’d love to hear a joke.  Would you tell me one?”  I was expecting a sweet little knock-knock joke or one of those funny ones about how many Baptists it took to change a light bulb.

Patty’s brow furrowed. “I don’t think you want to hear any of my jokes.”

Now, looking back, I should have stopped there. How naïve I was in my mid twenties.

“Patty, tell me a joke! I really want to hear one!”

So she did.

Oh, me.

It was the dirtiest, raunchiest thing I had ever heard. My mouth went dry. The color left my face and then returned with a bright red embarrassment. I heard a steam engine in my ears as my blood pressure shot up to, I am certain, almost deadly levels. I had never heard anything like that in my life, especially not from a lady nearing ninety. I couldn’t speak. I tried to scream for her to quit but shock coiled around my vocal cords like a python, shutting them off.

Well, Patty took my silence as a green light and let ‘em fly. They came one after the other in rapid succession, the next one worse than the one that preceded it. 

I staggered to my feet and zagged almost like a drunk to the door, holding on to the wall with my head down. All the while, Patty’s clip of jokes still wasn’t empty, so she kept firing away. 

In a voice that sounded like a pitiful, weak, and breathless echo, I finally told her to stop.  I just stared at her aghast. She looked at me with a wry grin, angled her head to one side and muttered, “Well, you asked me.”

I left Patty’s home that day absolutely flustered. When I confronted Joe about what he had done, he responded with a laughter that made his sides hurt.

Now, consider with me what Jesus says in Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the Day of Judgment.” 

Have you ever though of that? That every word we speak will be judged by God? Many of us may not be that much different than Patty. Oh, we may not tell nasty jokes like she did, but do we gossip, make up terrible things about people, say hateful words to those we love, utter terrible racial statements, blaspheme God’s name, speak down to people, or tear people apart with our words? 

Do we think about how we speak to that single mom with three kids who is working in the check-out lane at Wal-Mart? She can’t help it if they are out of Bama Mayonnaise. And why do we leave church services on Sunday morning praising the name of God only to fuss out a waitress at the local restaurant a little while later because the tea isn’t sweet enough? Do we get with people who look and talk like us and then down those who aren’t like us?

Do we not realize that EVERY IDLE WORD we utter will face the judgment of God? And listen, I don’t mean just idle words that we SAY. I also mean words that we TYPE. My soul, there are things people post on social media that I can’t imagine they would ever dare to actually say to someone’s face. I am often flabbergasted by the things I have read on Facebook or Twitter that come from good ole’ “church folks.”

Y’all, we are in a mess. If we face this kind of divine judgment and this kind of divine scrutiny, then we are hopeless in front of a holy God who rejects all sin. 

Enter Jesus of Nazareth.

You see, Jesus lived a life you and I could not live and died a death we deserve to die. He faced the totally justified wrath of God the Father toward sin so we wouldn’t have to.

Jesus died so we might have eternal life by His grace. He rose from the dead so you and I could rise again as well if we surrender ourselves to Him in faith. God’s grace is amazing and does amazing, life-changing, and wonderful things in us. Glory to God!

But wait a minute… If I can be forgiven for all my sins because of the faithfulness of Jesus, what stops me from just living anyway I please? I mean, why worry about being holy and righteous and all of that if Jesus did it all for me anyway?

Examine what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:15: “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 

So, as those who call ourselves followers of Christ, do we desire to live for Him who died and rose again for us? Do we honestly evaluate how our lives glorify God and encourage others to know Him? Or do we just selfishly and ungratefully live for ourselves even in the way we speak (and type) to one another? As Christians, how will the world be attracted to Jesus if we act like the Devil? 

I pray we all will consider these important questions carefully because, let me tell you, they are no joke. 

Scott McCullar is the pastor of First Baptist Church Carbon Hill. He can be reached at (205)924-4145 or Church services are aired Sundays at 9 a.m. on WJLX 101.5.