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Summary: Speech betrays the heart. Thus, Jesus cautions those who will follow Him to review their words.

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“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.” [1]

Columnist Michael Coren advocated a revival of judgemental attitudes. He wasn’t suggesting that we need to say one thing and do another, but rather he meant that we need to say and do what honours God. I tend to agree with him on this issue. Society is increasingly obsessed with individual rights and “fairness.” However, in our rush to appear non-judgemental and fair we have opted for dishonest speech.

If we can change the name, perhaps we will change the action, transforming it into something acceptable. We no longer call sin “sin”; and crime is no longer “crime.” We have confused morality with manners and compassion with sentimentality; “nice” has supplanted “good.” Nowhere is this more obvious than in the area of sex and sexuality. We're told we should now call prostitutes, “sex-trade workers” and strippers, “exotic dancers.” But they're not; they're prostitutes and strippers. And “Johns” are fornicators.

We use the real, genuine descriptions not to degrade women who sell their bodies and remove their clothes for money but to degrade and denounce the professions themselves. A prostitute may or may not be a good and fine woman, but she is behaving in a manner that is certainly not good and fine.

Coren concluded his editorial, “This cult of the euphemism is like a disease. It sickens our understanding, it weakens our defences and it upsets our sense of truth. And if anyone thinks words don't really matter they're not only foolish but clearly wouldn't object to having their mother called a filthy name.

“We wouldn't, for example, suddenly call a torturer a Pain Operative or, more pertinent perhaps, describe a pimp as a Sex Enabler.

“Marriage is not living together and a common-law marriage may be common but it's not a marriage. It goes without saying, of course, that while homosexual couples may be happy and loving, they can never be married in spite of what politicians and legal zealots try to tell us.

“If you tell lies, you're a liar. If you steal, you're a thief. If you betray your spouse, you're an adulterer. If you use drugs for fun, you're pathetic. If you believe in unjust wars, you're a coward and a bully.

“If you support abortion, you believe in killing unborn children. If you're indifferent to the poor and the Third World, you're a selfish wretch. Still there? Doesn't matter.

“Any attempt to legitimize what is by nature illegitimate does not make us a more fair society but merely a less honest one.

“We need a restoration of stigma. We need to reintroduce the concept of sin. We need to become more judgmental.” [2]

Words are vital; and they can be used as weapons. Unfortunately, even professed Christians are tempted to change the meaning of words in a display of aberrant social justice for those considered to be unempowered or in order to soften the impact of our actions. In 1974, Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled, “Whatever Became of Sin.” [3] He concluded that sin had not disappeared, but that we no longer believed in repentance. In psychological terms, we no longer own our sin. We are not willing to accept responsibility for our actions, and consequently, like Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking-Glass,” words mean just what we choose them to mean—neither more nor less. [4]

When Jesus spoke the words recorded in our text, He was cautioning against permitting our words to be evil, accomplishing what is wicked and evil. He was warning that we must accept responsibility both for what we say and for the impact of our words.

BACKGROUND FOR THE MESSAGE — In order to understand Jesus’ meaning when He spoke the words of our text, it is necessary to remember the context of His words. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus, in the company of His disciples, was walking through a grain field. Passing through the field, the disciples plucked some of the grain because they were hungry. Some Pharisees saw what they were doing and complained to the Master. After all, according to the rules they had established for observing the Sabbath, the disciples were not honouring the Law of Moses [MATTHEW 12:1, 2].

Understand that the rules were made up by religious leaders. They were not part of the Mosaic Law. Consequently, Jesus responded by citing for them an event that occurred as David fled from Saul. He also quoted for them HOSEA 6:6, a passage that pointedly reminded them that God sought a changed heart and not mere outward form, before declaring Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” [MATTHEW 12:3-8].

If His response to their complaining was not enough to infuriate them, then what He did next was calculated to drive them mad with rage—Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. Mark seems to indicate that the situation was a set-up, designed to entice Jesus into deliberately violating the Sabbath laws. Notice especially the first two verses of MARK THREE: “[Jesus] entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him” [MARK 3:1, 2].

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