“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.”
This passage, originally meant for the Pharisees, is still an important reminder today.
That religious group was angered by Jesus’s teaching, because it challenged their belief system and their stature among the people. In this chapter alone, Pharisees confront Jesus about how he is observing the Sabbath, and his power to heal and drive out demons. Their motive is not to learn, but to condemn.
Jesus knows that they are set against Him, and that most of their hearts will not be changed. So, he uses an illustration to share a lesson, and leaves them to decide what to do with it.
Jesus speaks of good and bad trees – the inner condition of either tree becomes apparent by the fruit it produces. This leads to Jesus talking about the fruit people produce, namely what we do and especially what we say. Our inner thoughts, attitudes and beliefs always seem to come out one way or another, in either a positive or a negative way.
It sure doesn’t take much for me to apply this truth personally, because I’ve done my share of putting a nice face on some pretty bad attitudes. But the facade always slips eventually, and some of my true colors come out. When Jesus talks about “empty” or in some translations “careless” words, he is talking about things we say that show the prejudice, envy, covetousness or any number of other heart attitudes that can rot our insides if we’re not careful.
How can we keep our fruit good? First by noticing how we talk, the messages we give out to those around us. Are we building up or tearing down? Are we hurting or helping? Most importantly, are we glorifying God by how we speak? If we see negative patterns, it’s time to take a look at our hearts and ask for God to prune and to grow us.