Saturday, June 15, 2019

Every Idle Word

One night years ago, my husband Richard and I were rudely awakened from a sound sleep by the shrill ring of the phone. It was a business acquaintance of his, asking if it were true that Richard was stranded in Spain after his credit cards, cash and passport were stolen. How much money did he need to borrow, and how could she wire it to him?

Emerging from our dazed confusion, we finally pieced together that Richard’s email account had been hacked, and that the hacker had sent an email to each of my husband’s contacts, explaining the above made-up scenario and requesting a loan. Unlike most junk email and phishing scams, this one appeared to come from my husband’s correct email address and contained his name, increasing the chances that a good-hearted recipient would think it was a legitimate call for help rather than a blatant lie.

This incident reminded us that “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33); that we must avoid “corrupt communication” (Ephesians 4:29); and that we should let our “communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay” (Matthew 5:37).

Our family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who know we claim His name regard us as His representative (2 Corinthians 5:20). Even for our unsaved acquaintances, what we say therefore reflects on Him, whether rightly or wrongly. Those in positions of leadership must be especially careful not only that their speech honors Him (Colossians 4:6), but also that it is doctrinally sound and pure (Titus 2:1-8).

Our time on earth to do God’s work is limited (Job 14:1), both collectively as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) as His return draws ever nearer, and individually, for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), and we don’t know when He will call us home. The fields of unsaved souls are ripe for harvest, but laborers are few (John 4:35; Matthew 9:37).

Throughout our life once we are saved, God provides us with divine appointments to witness for Him. This may be to a stranger we will never see again, or to those who are closest to us whom we see every day. For those in positions of leadership, these appointments may occur at the pulpit, in a Bible study class, or in a music or other ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains the Gospel of grace – that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (v. 1-4), that all who have faith in Him will have eternal life. He warns against “evil communications” (v. 33) with those who would dilute or even deny this truth, which is the only means to salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We must not allow false teachers to compromise our knowledge of this truth (2 Peter 2:1) and our urgency to share it with others, as Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

Our own testimony and witness to others must not in any way corrupt the Gospel. Instead, it must build up and instruct the hearer regarding God’s grace and salvation through His Son (Ephesians 4:29). Similarly, Jesus warns us to speak the truth plainly – yes meaning yes, and no meaning no (Matthew 5:37). If we muddle these together, we distort what is right and wrong, black and white, into shades of gray.

In these End Times (Matthew 24), Satan has infiltrated governments, world systems, universities, and even seminaries and churches with his ministers, with “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). His minions can be “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” (Matthew 7:15) perverting God’s Word just enough to be damnable heresy, but not enough to be noticed by those who are doctrinally weak. 

For the most part, these false teachers and false prophets are unsaved, and unless they become born again (John 3:3-8), they will spend eternity in hell. But what about those saved church leaders who may be doctrinally sound, but do not fully use the opportunity God has given them to share His Word? Who but God knows if the time allotted to their message is the only time an unsaved soul would have to hear the Gospel? 

I believe that church leaders will be accountable to Jesus for their ministry when they face Him at the judgment seat (1 Corinthians 3:10-13). Will they hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21) or instead have the horrible realization that they wasted precious time and opportunity by rambling with idle words (Matthew 12:36), not as led by the Spirit (Romans 8:1,4), but for indifference or lack of preparation. Or, even worse, did they use their ministry to flatter themselves, build up their own ego, further a political agenda, or even for financial gain?

It is not just church leaders who will be held accountable, for all who are born again are commanded to share the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). We don’t need a divinity degree or formal ministry to do this, any more than did the shepherds to whom the angels proclaimed Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8-17), or the Samaritan woman at the well who ran off to tell everyone, even her enemies, that she had found the Messiah (John 4:21-42).

As we grow as Christians and become more mature in His Word, our ability to share the Gospel should improve (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12). But lack of knowledge should not keep even the newest Christian from sharing the simple truth of how Jesus changed their life, and how they trusted in His death, burial and resurrection to know for sure they will go to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Jesus said that at the judgment, we will suffer loss over our idle words (Matthew 12:36). I believe this refers not to sins involving words, such as lying, blasphemy, hateful speech, verbal abuse, or slander. We have already been judged for all our sins, past, present, and future, at Calvary, where Christ paid in full for our sin debt (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Rather, I believe Christ will judge us for our idle chatter that frittered away opportunities to share His Word or to edify others (Romans 14:19; 15:2) rather than tearing them down.

When God opens the door for us to testify for Him at work or in a social setting, do we walk through it, or do we nervously change the conversation to sports, shopping or politics? Do we welcome gossip, even if under the guise of a prayer request replete with salacious details that may actually be true? There are situations when Christian responsibility does require us to convey unpleasant facts to others. Examples might include informing a church leader that the person he was considering to be treasurer had been fired because of embezzlement, or telling a friend that her husband was spotted embracing another woman.

Yet telling others about such incidents when they have no need to know amounts to gossip and can harm the hearer and tale bearer, as well as the subject of the tale. There is an old story of a woman who confessed to her priest that she had spread a rumor about the infidelity of a parishioner. The rumor turned out not to be true but had irreparably damaged the reputation of that person.

The gossiping woman had expected her priest to ask her to recite several Hail Marys and Our Fathers as penance, and was shocked when he instead asked her to find the largest feather pillow she had, go up to her rooftop on a windy day, and shred the pillow to bits with a kitchen knife. She returned a week later and announced that she had completed the task.

“Fine,” the priest replied. “Now go pick up all the scattered feathers.”  We cannot undo the harm of gossip any more than we can retrieve the germs that escape from an uncovered sneeze or feathers scattered to the winds.

We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), not being hurtful or judgmental, or causing offense that would be a stumbling block to another’s faith (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:9; 1 Peter 2:8; 1 John 2:10). Yet in our eagerness to be kind, accepted or politically correct, we must not dilute or distort doctrine or gloss over truths that may be painful to hear.

Saying “He’s in a better place,” about a lost person who died may make his family feel better, but it is directly opposed to Biblical truth and may remove the urgency the family members might otherwise feel about getting right with God. It is true that only God knows the heart (Psalm 44:21; Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8; 1 John 3:20) and that deathbed conversions may occur, so we can’t know for sure what any person’s eternal destiny may be. In the above situation, it may be best to focus on that, and to thank God for offering eternal life in heaven to “whosoever” believes in His Son’s death, burial and resurrection to pay for our sins (John 3:16).

May we recognize the power of life and death that is in our tongue (Proverbs 18:21), learn to bridle it for good rather than for evil (James 3), and avoid diluting the saving power of the Gospel message with idle words!

© 2019 Laurie Collett



Tanza Erlambang said...

I always get this kind of “corrupt communication” from many "friends".... I was trapped once.

Then my friend call me that her e-mail was hacked.

# Thank you for your useful article to discuss this matter..... hope, other people read your post.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Tanza, for your comment and encouragement! God bless,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I have believed that "idle words men shall speak" referred only to crude jokes and base humour. But by going by your blog, obviously, it's much more than this. Heresy can be, and is, dangerous, as you say, the truth can be compromised ever so slightly so as it passes as genuine to those young in the faith. One other article I have been recently reading was about "theistic evolution" which has aroused the approval of many Christian students and academics, yet has the power to make the Gospel of total non-effect.
I am so glad that this business associate had made contact with both of you for verification of the lost or stolen wallet and travel documents before parting with any of her money. Indeed, these scams are becoming so sophisticated that even the most die-hard internet user can still be caught out and fall victim. Nobody is immune, by the looks of it.
A well-written thought-provoking blog. God bless.

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I had a lovely conversation with a young lady in a fashion shop recently. It is amazing how sometimes what starts off as a normal everyday conversation can end up as a witness to an unbeliever. I love the fact that we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, and sometimes we end up sharing part of our ongoing testimony when we least expect it. This young lady was so wanting to hear about the Lord, it was just her time. All glory to God.
God bless Laurie

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thanks as always for your well-reasoned comment and encouragement. "Theistic evolution" is a great example of how "Christians" who want to blend politically correct "science" with the Bible account of creation end up believing a lie.
It is indeed frightening to see how sophisticated Internet and phone scams are becoming, particular as they tend to prey on seniors, who are often the most vulnerable.
Thanks again and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Praise the Lord that He opened the door for you to witness, and that you walked through it to share the Gospel! This young lady will be part of your soulwinners' crown!
Thanks for your lovely comment and for sharing your experience. God bless you,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
just read your comment on my blog. You are so right, what is written in my blog does line up very much with what my dream was portraying to me.
God bless you Laurie as you encourage others to seek the truth through the written Word.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
It is encouraging when God speaks to us, mostly through His Word but also through dreams and in other ways. Thanks for your comment and God bless you too!

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

This is such an important subject, and so many Christians today ignore it. As Jesus said, our words reflect our heart attitude, and show just what we are really like.

Brenda said...

Sorry Laurie, should have said what was written on your blog post lines up with what my dream was portraying to me.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! Our words do come from our heart, whether for good or for evil. May we yield to the Spirit in our words and in all things.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
I thought maybe that's what you meant, but it works either way!
God bless,