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Summary: Third sermon in a series on the use and abuse of the tongue.

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"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." - Matthew 12:35-37 (NKJV)

The word translated "careless" in the NIV is translated "idle" in the New King James Version. I got thinking about the meaning of the word, "idle." According to Webster’s Dictionary, "idle" means: "Lacking worth or basis; not occupied or employed." With these definitions in mind, let’s think together about "idle words."

1. Idle words are words that do not benefit anyone.

They are words lacking in worth or basis. There at two examples of words that do not benefit anyone that we might think about today:

A. Gossip.

It is interesting that after Webster’s defines "idle" as "Lacking worth or basis," the word "rumor" is listed as an example of this definition.

Indeed, spreading gossip and rumor is an example of idle words.

As we think about gossip, we recognize that gossip can take one of two forms. First, there is ...

1) Active gossip.

This is when I tell something entrusted to me by another person to a third individual who is not a "need to know" person. We commonly refer to this as "breaking a confidence."

"Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends. " - Proverbs 16:28 (CEV)

I need to ask myself if passing this bit of information entrusted to me is worth jeopardizing a friendship.

2) Passive gossip.

This is where I join in a conversation about someone else and tell things and offer perspective that I have no real basis for knowing. I just want to get my "two cents" worth in on the conversation.

"Better to have people think I have nothing on my mind than to open my mouth and remove all doubt."

B. Grumbling.

Certainly, grumbling does not benefit anyone. Rather, grumbling de¬stroys others and is often used by the evil one to halt the work of God. While gossip refers to passing along unfounded information about an¬other, grumbling refers to verbally opposing someone in authority.

In his book, "It’s Time to End Church Splits," Francis Frangipane shares this bit of insight about gossip and grumbling:

"Jesus made a remarkable statement concerning Judas. He said, ’Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him" (John 6:70-71).

To what was Jesus referring when He identified Judas Iscariot as "a devil?" Was he speaking figuratively or factually?

What I believe Jesus is identifying in Judas Iscariot as a "devil" is something that, today, exists unchecked among many Christians: slander. In the New Testament, the Greek word, diabolos, which is translated "devil" in this text, is translated impersonally elsewhere as a "false accuser," "slanderer" or "a malicious gossip." In fact, First Timothy 3:11 and Second Timothy 3:3 both translate diabolos as "malicious gossip(s)."


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Marcella Ervin

commented on Apr 5, 2017

I was asking God what He meant about idle words. I feel that it is the intent of the heart. Sometimes we tell people something about another person but it's because we are concern about them and need to release that burden of what that person has told us. But I have learned that if I pray for that person and release it to God I don't feel that sadness about that person anymore. I'm an intercessor call by God. I never wanted to be one but as I said, God called me to do it. I feel others pain sometimes and I realize that after I pray for them, I don't have that feeling anymore.

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