What do you mean by idle words, virtually everything we say is idle.
A chance meeting has led me to looking at Matthew's gospel.
Matthew 12:9-37 KJV
God has planted me in chapter12 and I find myself focused on verse 36 for several days.
The context of verse 36 is part of his response to “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
These pharisees attributed his work, God's work, the Spirit's work, to the devil. A portion of his response includes this: “men will have to give an account for every careless word they have spoken.”
We have this tendency to take a verse like this and beat people up with it. Another way of stating this would be the laying undue guilt and condemnation upon Christians who will not look at the scriptures for themselves.
Let's take a look at the possibilities of what he was talking about.
Matthew was a Jewish oriented writer and part of his mission seemed to be convincing the Jewish believers that Jesus was God, through lineage, prophecy, actions, and words. Chapter12 gives us a taste of many aspects of this.
Now with that in mind let's try to ascertain who Jesus is speaking to:
One of our first references is the term men that scripture uses.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36 KJV)
One might think that he had turned his attentions back to his disciples, or the crowd that seemed to follow him everywhere. That might be a logical assumption except that he, in verse 34, states: “you generation of vipers”, a specific reference to the pharisees that had challenged him and were still standing before him.
The specific audience is the pharisees, and yet he is also talking to a Jewish crowd of followers, and the fact that Matthew points all this out then by extension applies to us in general. But does it really?
Only seconds before Jesus made this statement of condemnation he made a startling statement, to those that heard it, that was very freeing, and a reference to a future act, the cross and his death.
I tell you therefore, men will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but they will not be forgiven for blaspheming the Spirit. Whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come.
(Matthew 12:31-32 Moffatt NT)
If you had previously dived into Paul's letter to the Romans you got a taste of this in his writings, the forgiveness of sins. Now we are dealing with somewhat conflicting messages. One seems all encompassing in terms of condemnation, and the other is blanket freedom from sins. This freedom is not just exclusive to future believers, but inclusive of everyone.
There seems to be a dividing line.
The pharisees were educated and there should be no doubt about that. Paul was one, and his zeal drove him to murder early Christians. (Do not think naively that Stephen was the first and only.) And yet with all their education they could not see or understand that God stood before them. Matthew had the intent of pointing this fact out. Why, with all your education, would you make a statement like this;
"He drives out demons only because their ruler Beelzebub gives him power to do so." (Matthew 12:24 GNB)
Revelation 20:13 Indicates that those being judged at the white throne are judged based upon their deeds and not their words.
Here again we have another clue to help us interpret scripture. In Revelation 20 John tells us that he saw those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus, and had not worshiped the beast or received the marks. They (the martyred) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
These are the tribulation saints. Those who did not believe prior to the harpazo ( I have a little trouble with the term the rapture for it is not in scripture with the exception of the Latin Vulgate.) These saints, as God called them, certainly experienced a judgment based upon their words.
Were they careless?
It does not seem to matter for when it came to making a final stand for the true God they demonstrated exemplary action. The pathetic aspect of this is that they did not have to go through the “great tribulation”, and that in itself exhibits a carelessness that is mind boggling. Even still God is not bringing about a judgment upon them because of this lack of activity on their part.
As I write this I am thinking about a guy at work, a Jehovah Witness, that does not know the true God, and yet has some vague understanding about God and who he is. One thing for sure is that Jesus is not the brother of Satan. Why wouldn't a belief system like that not fall under the category of blaspheming against the Spirit. If anything I think what we see here is a God that is much more merciful than most of us imagined.
One other thing to note about these "careless" people. Faults or not they rule and reign with Christ during the thousand years, merely because they finally took a stand and chose God over the beast.
There are other predominant flags here that leads us to an understanding of what and to whom Jesus is talking.
- Firstly, let's not just classify them as pharisees but deeply religious people. Now we can extend this to today. We have plenty of those.
- Secondly, Jesus deemed their words as careless. Perhaps we can substitute thoughtless, derogatory, in opposition, blatantly lacking belief, and therefore in denial of the power of Holy Spirit and therefore God. If you attribute an act of God to the Satanic then are you not also denying the power of God, and perhaps even God himself.
The passage tells us that Jesus knew their thoughts. Does that mean that they had not openly spoken the negativity that filled their vile little hearts? What if, even on a small scale, they had broadcast their denials of God and his power?
The pharisees, do they not become the poison that begins to kill the tree?
Alright, you caught me, I left out an aspect of Jesus response to the pharisees; his comments about trees producing good fruit. So, let me interject them for a moment.
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33 NIV)
I was trained as a Horticulturalist so this speaks to me on a couple of levels. So I ask myself, how does one make a tree good?
If I want an Apple tree that is what I buy, therefore the tree is expected to produce a particular fruit.
In its early stages of growth, not having reached maturity, I would be foolish to expect fruit. Therefore patience is a virtue, and condemning the tree without giving it a chance to grow is foolish. Jesus was from an agricultural environment and may have had a firm grasp of this. Even if farming was not in his knowledge base he was a carpenter, and who better would have understood trees.
These days we know that certain trees have issues in particular environments.(No duh, are we not the same way.) It is safer, on the part of the grower, to graft a great apple variety onto a variety that may not be known for it's edibility as much as it is for disease resistance. Hence the trunk of the tree is different from the producing portion. The rootstock (the part in the ground that becomes the anchor in a sense) often resists a common nematode that impacts apple varieties, while the canopy produces a much desired fruit. (This should have a familiar ring to it, as scripture tells us that we believers have also been grafted in.)
Placed in a preferred environment (good soil) the tree knows what to do. Can it be nurtured through fertilization? Yes, and knowledge of pruning techniques that enhance production is essential, for some trees produce on second year growth of wood.
How would you make a tree bad?
That does not even sound right, to a farmer that is counter productive. If I wanted to harm a tree, or purposely kill it, then I merely need to withhold water. A lack of water will stress the tree, impacting the fruit and production, and if prolonged and severe enough the tree will not recover from the stress, and die. Isn't death bad enough?
How does this relate?
Obviously it does because Jesus presented it. Have you not read that in the life of the believer, the word of God is the water. Now picture putting yourself under a self-imposed stress, because of a lack of water. How far do you have to push the limits of non-watering (in a plant, removal of water impacts every aspect of the plants life. Each aspect is essential, and taken together over an extended period, a death stroke) before your chances of recovery are maxed out. The point here is that stressing a plant is a bad thing, and at minimum causes the plant to wilt until more water comes. Now why would you want to intentionally do a similar thing to your own life, and yet we do. Most never water ourselves, and if the Holy Spirit shows himself strong anywhere near most, they cry that they want none of that.
What did the pharisees say that was so bad?
“It is only by Beelzebub .. that this fellow drives out demons.”
Are you serious, this was a direct affront to the idea that Jesus was God, and even they understood that only God could cast out a demon. This makes me chuckle for people are ignorant enough to say that Jesus never said that he was God. If he did not say it then he was demonstrating it, the pharisee had just watched it happen, and they are now confronted by sights that conflicted with and convicted them of their unbelief.
There is something that happens in people, and they will not accept responsibility for their mistakes. Seriously, how many times have you heard someone say “I knew that!” or “that is what I meant to say!”. The pharisees did not waste their time saying those things, they immediately start plotting to kill Jesus, and Jesus knowledge of this concerns him to the degree that he pulls away from these madmen. (Do not think that Jesus pulled back out of fear. I believe that he knew the timing, and when he needed to ride into Jerusalem on the donkey, as scripture and the prophets foretold, and therefore relocated so as not to provoke unnecessary murder attempts.)
Calling Jesus "this fellow" is another slap in the face of God. Even if you do not wish to attribute his works to God, they knew his name, and evidence alone told them that Jesus was God, as he had stated.
The bottom line here is that the blasphemy that is unforgivable is a denial of His name, son-ship, authority, claims, and power; effectively refusing to accept who God is.
That should have rung a bell for belief in the one who raised Jesus from the dead is the key to salvation.