“You will have to give an account for every careless word you utter,” says Jesus in today’s passage (v. 36). “Careless word” is a rather daunting phrase.
A friend of mine died after a slow decline and months in hospice care. He was a brilliant man who had been an economics professor and college dean. During my years as a Christian educator, I was thankful whenever he said “yes” to teaching a Bible study or leading a small group. Along with being an excellent teacher, he was a lifelong learner.
As a teacher, I’m grateful for those who can be relied upon to speak when silence lingers after a question. Though every response may not be profoundly insightful, they are sincere, and their words are hardly “careless.” My friend, however, rarely responded when questions were posed. Yet he was a delight to have in class because when he did say something, wisdom and insight filled his words. Folks listened because he had something meaningful to say.
What would happen if we spoke fewer words? And what if those words, instead of being care-less, were care-full, words filled with compassion and kindness? What if we really did choose our words wisely, knowing from our own experiences the power words have to wound or to heal, to crush or to build up?
At my friend’s funeral, his college president remembered him as a person whose words could calm a tense faculty meeting, offer encouragement to a struggling student, and offer gratitude to a custodian. Let us, like my friend, listen not so much in order to speak, but to hear. And when we have heard and when we do speak, may our words be sources of grace and blessing.
Have you spoken a “careless word” recently? Speak to God about that.
God, may “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart,” be pleasing to you and considerate of others (Ps 19:14). Amen.