Idle Words Are Dangerous & Will Be Judged
Research suggests that people, on average, speak about 15,000 words per day. To put this in perspective, it is equivalent to over an hour and a half long speech every day. Now, imagine that the whole of your conversations were transcribed and reviewed at the end of each day, or possibly read to a group of people you admire. Would this long speech inspire them, disgust them, or simply confuse them? We must take great care to answer this question intentionally as we will give an account of all our idle words spoken, on the day of judgment. This is according to Jesus Himself; EVERY idle word.
Abstaining from overtly corrupted speech should be obvious enough for the Christian as we are told to, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…” (Ephesians 4:29) But what exactly is “idle” speech? Idle words can be summed up in this: “uncalculated” or “lazy”. They are those words which come out with no intention; haphazard and useless. They do nothing, but occupy time. They do not tend to edification, nor necessarily to apparent corruption, but are useless fillers of space which effectively steal breath from God and rob others of potential edification. Do not suppose that this means there is no place for humor or lighthearted conversation. As Philip Doddridge observes,
Discourse tending to innocent mirth, to exhilarate the spirits, is not idle discourse; as the time spent in necessary recreation is not idle time”
But it is that speech which is dispensed with no particular aim but to be speaking for the sake of speaking that is meant by “idle”. Imagine a group of men standing around in a circle when they ought to be working. This is the type of idleness in mind. It is the shirking of duty with the aim of nothingness.
We will give an account of all these idle words. Do we not know that, “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking…” (Proverbs 10:19) and that, “a fool’s voice is known by his many words.”? (Ecclesiastes 5:3) Therefore, the more intentional we are, the less likely we are to be sinful in speech, exuding folly. Better to be silent than to introduce meaningless, lazy, and aimless words.
I want to note the peculiar and divine nature of speech in general. Think with me. What was the first “act” in recorded history? Was it not this command from God: “Let there be light.” He SPOKE! Then He continued speaking and by His speech, framed our worlds. Thirteen times in the first chapter of the Bible it is recorded that God “said” or “called”. Speech is the first divine attribute we read of. God “dictated” His word to His prophets which was then recorded for us to read. Jesus is called “The Word”. The very act of speaking is arguably the attribute which most denotes us as “Imago Dei” beings. Being made in His image and likeness, we are able to communicate; proclaiming, prescribing, blessing and cursing. Animals do not share this capacity with us, even if African Grey Parrots can mimic speech with some apparent intelligibility. Our form of communication is articulate and deeply intelligible precisely because it is one of God’s attributes given to us by Him, having been made in His image. We study the WORD of God. The very concept of “judgments”, “statutes”, “commands” etc. denote speech. God has never uttered an idle word. Think of it! Never once did Jesus speak in a way that was not intentional, but was always speaking those things which were “good for necessary edification, that [they imparted] grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) What a lofty thought. By speaking words, we most exhibit our similitude with God Himself. How careful then ought we to be that our words are intentional?
Our entire existence is governed and driven by words. When God sought to punish those in Babel, He confused their language, saying, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7) Their speech was stifled, which halted progress. The most monumental events in world history were either words themselves, or actions which were engendered by words. The Declaration Of Independence, The Gettysburg Address, The Sermon On The Mount, The Ten Commandments, wars which were preceded by declarations of war, etc, etc. Even those without audible speech have words to see and those without sight have words to feel. From sign language for the deaf, to braille for the blind, humanity is marked by words; by speech. Even computer programs are coded with intentional language. There are no useless or “idle” codes in the computer, but only those things which are necessary to make it function more efficiently and completely. By words are men moved to tears or to rage. By words are men’s souls enlightened through the preaching of the gospel. By words are people encouraged and emboldened. Humanity exists in the realm of words.
While words of encouragement are necessary, unfortunately, words of rebuke are often necessary as well. Only let them be intentional and in accord with THE Word. The old saying goes, “you have two ears and one mouth; listen twice as much as you speak.” James similarly says that we ought to be “swift to hear” & “slow to speak.” When Jesus said, “be of good cheer.” it was intentional. When He said, “Woe to you!” it was also intentional. Whether in meaningful edification or necessary rebuke, our words should be intentional and calculated. We know that we are to be holy in all our conduct and that whatever we do, “in word or in deed” (Colossians 3:17) that we are to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Idle words cannot be spoken in the name of Jesus without bringing reproach upon Him.
Let us reflect on our speech and, perhaps, our lack of intentionality, that if all our words were reviewed daily in our own hearing, we would not be ashamed, but could stand before God justified in our speech. Let us strive to be intentional with our words, rather holding our tongue than simply hurling useless and lazy speech into existence as we will give an account of every idle word spoken. If we are good, we will bring forth good things out of the good treasure of our hearts. May we be more conformed to Jesus and as His words were fashioned with care and aimed with precision, so let our speech be more like His, that idleness, wherever it may be found, will not be found to occupy our tongues.