“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” – Matthew 12:36
In the fairy tale The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a young shepherd boy is tasked with watching the sheep and protecting them from predators. But one day, he gets bored and decides to spice things up. He goes to the town square, rings the bell, and cries, “Wolf! Wolf!” All the villagers scramble out with pitchforks and shovels, but when they hit the town square, they see the boy laughing. He explains that he was bored and just wanted to have some fun. This careless behavior goes on a couple of times, until one day, an actual wolf makes his way into the pasture. The boy runs to the town square and cries, “Wolf! Wolf!” but nobody comes, because they think he is still playing. The wolf eats the sheep, and the boy eats crow.
The words we speak have consequences. We will incur judgment for every word we have spoken in our lifetime. In the verse above, Jesus warns of the eternal outcome regarding the things we say today. Just like the boy, we too must realize that careless talk—a rude comment, an insult or bad advice—affects others today, but it also has a major impact on our coming judgment at the End of Days.
Yet it should come as no surprise to many of us that our attempts to change the words that come out of our mouths are weak at best. This is because the content of our speech is determined by the condition of our hearts. What we say to people is a direct reflection of the thoughts, feelings and attitudes of our hearts. In other words, to change what comes out of our mouths requires a heart change. Only through submission to the Holy Spirit, who yearns to transform us into the likeness of Christ, will we experience victory in controlling the things we say.