Audio of this sermon is available here.
A 2007 study by the academic journal Science indicated that humans speak an average of 16,000 words per day. The study found that the difference in the number of words spoken by men and women is negligible with women speaking 16,215 words and men speaking 15,669 a day. This study contradicted a study the previous year by Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, in her 2006 book The Female Brain. This book claimed that women speak an average of 20,000 words per day, nearly three times the mere 7,000 spoken by men. I don’t want to get into this debate today. I will let you husbands and wives settle this dispute on your own time.
Let’s assume for a moment that we only speak 10,000 words a day. If that’s the case every five days enough words come from your lips to produce a 200 page book. Every five days! That’s 73 books a year. You can do the math on how many books your words would fill in your lifetime. Of all those words you’ve spoken in your lifetime, how many would you consider to be said carelessly? A lot of them! This is sobering when we consider the words of Christ in our text this morning that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” What does Jesus mean by this? There are two important principles that we need to consider. Let’s look at this morning’s text and see just what it means.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 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.” (Matthew 12:33-37)
I. Our Words Reveal the State of Our Hearts, vv. 33-35.
Remember in the context that Jesus has just addressed the Pharisees who have committed the unpardonable sin by rejecting the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit through the miracles of Jesus that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was able to pronounce his judgment upon the words of the Pharisees precisely because He knew their thoughts (v. 25). In other words, Jesus know that the Pharisees’ words of blasphemy reflected hearts of blasphemy and He was therefore able to pronounce their final judgment in advance. The principle is stated clearly in the second half of verse 34: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, as I’ve stated it: “Our Words Reveal the State of Our Heart.” This is a scary proposition!
Having six children 13 and under means that for the last 13 years we’ve had a cup of something spilled every single meal. Often, someone will call out, “It’s just water.” This means they will be no sticky, sugary mess to clean up. We just have to get a towel and soak it up. Do you know what? We’ve never had anything come out of those cups that wasn’t in them. Whatever is in the cup, whether water, juice, milk, or Diet Dr. Pepper, that’s always what comes out. In a similar way, Jesus says that whatever is in our heart is what will come out of our lips with our words. When something jars you or upsets you and words come out of your mouth, it’s because they’re in your heart and they’re in your heart because you put them there!
We often say in words meant to comfort that “God knows our heart.” We are often reassured by thinking that although our actions and words may have been wrong, that God knows our heart and our heart is good after all. But this is not what the Bible tells us about our hearts. In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet Jeremiah declared: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jehovah God responded, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Biblically, it is usually not a good thing that God knows our heart! It certainly wasn’t good for the Pharisees in Matthew 12.
The teaching of Scripture is clear: the words that come out of our mouths reveals what is in our heart.
Therefore, the next principle is true.
II. Our Words Will be the Basis of Our Judgment, vv. 36-37.
Here’s where it gets serious! Jesus says that we will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word which we speak! How many careless words have you spoken? If you’re 10 years old, consider nearly 700 books filled with your words. If you’re 40 years old, then you can imagine a library of nearly 3,000 two-hundred page books containing the words spoken in your lifetime. If you’re 60, imagine almost 4,500 such books. We have a lot to give an account for.
Jesus says in verse 37 that our words will either justify or condemn us. We need to realize that no matter how careful we have been with our words in our lifetime, there is more than enough evidence to condemn us to hell forever. If this is the final word, then we are all hopeless condemned sinners.
But I like the glimmer of hope of justification that is hinted out in verse 37. Some commentators take a lot of pains to explain why the gospel word “justified” is used here. They say that it is being used in its technical sense to refer to an acquittal in a court of law. That is certainly true, but I think there is at least a foreshadowing of the justification that comes through the “word of faith” which Paul talks about in Romans 10:5-10.
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
These verses state the same truth in a positive sense that Matthew 12:33-37 states negatively. Namely, your words reveal the state of your heart and your words will be the basis of your judgment. But here we are told that belief in the heart that is confessed with the mouth results in being justified/saved!
There is, therefore, hope for sinners whose hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. There is hope for sinners whose words should result in eternal condemnation. The hope comes from the fact that there was One who lived a sinless life. As the apostle Peter, one who knew Jesus, said, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Because He was sinless in his words, yet suffered in our place the punishment we deserve for our wicked words and hearts, we can be forgiven/justified by one word! The “word of faith.”
Isaiah tells us that “they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (53:9). Yes, He was crucified, dead and buried though He was the spotless Lamb of God. Therefore, His death was not for His sins, but for the sins of all those who would put their trust in Him.
Won’t you trust Him? One of my friends posted a great reminder on Twitter this morning. He said, “The Triumphal Entry occurred on lamb selection day for Jews. Jesus’ gesture: “Pick me as your Passover Lamb without blemish.” [@greg_thornbury Sun 24 Mar 08:26] This is Palm Sunday, the day of the Triumphal Entry, lamb selection day. Why look elsewhere for salvation? Here is Jesus, the Lamb of God who will take away your sin if you trust in Him.