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“I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.”
Columnist Michael Coren advocated a revival of judgemental attitudes.
He wasn’t suggesting that we need to say one thing and do another, but rather he meant that we need to say and do what honours God.
I tend to agree with him on this issue.
Society is increasingly obsessed with individual rights and “fairness.”
However, in our rush to appear non-judgemental and fair we have opted for dishonest speech.
If we can change the name, perhaps we will change the action, transforming it into something acceptable.
We no longer call sin “sin”; and crime is no longer “crime.”
We have confused morality with manners and compassion with sentimentality; “nice” has supplanted “good.”
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the area of sex and sexuality.
We're told we should now call prostitutes, “sex-trade workers” and strippers, “exotic dancers.”
But they're not; they're prostitutes and strippers.
And “Johns” are fornicators.
We use the real, genuine descriptions not to degrade women who sell their bodies and remove their clothes for money but to degrade and denounce the professions themselves.
A prostitute may or may not be a good and fine woman, but she is behaving in a manner that is certainly not good and fine.
Coren concluded his editorial, “This cult of the euphemism is like a disease.
It sickens our understanding, it weakens our defences and it upsets our sense of truth.
And if anyone thinks words don't really matter they're not only foolish but clearly wouldn't object to having their mother called a filthy name.
“We wouldn't, for example, suddenly call a torturer a Pain Operative or, more pertinent perhaps, describe a pimp as a Sex Enabler.
“Marriage is not living together and a common-law marriage may be common but it's not a marriage.
It goes without saying, of course, that while homosexual couples may be happy and loving, they can never be married in spite of what politicians and legal zealots try to tell us.
“If you tell lies, you're a liar.
If you steal, you're a thief.
If you betray your spouse, you're an adulterer.
If you use drugs for fun, you're pathetic.
If you believe in unjust wars, you're a coward and a bully.
“If you support abortion, you believe in killing unborn children.
If you're indifferent to the poor and the Third World, you're a selfish wretch.
Still there?
Doesn't matter.
“Any attempt to legitimize what is by nature illegitimate does not make us a more fair society but merely a less honest one.
“We need a restoration of stigma.
We need to reintroduce the concept of sin.
We need to become more judgmental.”
Words are vital; and they can be used as weapons.
Unfortunately, even professed Christians are tempted to change the meaning of words in a display of aberrant social justice for those considered to be unempowered or in order to soften the impact of our actions.
In 1974, Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled, “Whatever Became of Sin.” [3] He concluded that sin had not disappeared, but that we no longer believed in repentance.
In psychological terms, we no longer own our sin.
We are not willing to accept responsibility for our actions, and consequently, like Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking-Glass,” words mean just what we choose them to mean—neither more nor less.
When Jesus spoke the words recorded in our text, He was cautioning against permitting our words to be evil, accomplishing what is wicked and evil.
He was warning that we must accept responsibility both for what we say and for the impact of our words.
*BACKGROUND FOR THE MESSAGE* — In order to understand Jesus’ meaning when He spoke the words of our text, it is necessary to remember the context of His words.
It was the Sabbath, and Jesus, in the company of His disciples, was walking through a grain field.
Passing through the field, the disciples plucked some of the grain because they were hungry.
Some Pharisees saw what they were doing and complained to the Master.
After all, according to the rules they had established for observing the Sabbath, the disciples were not honouring the Law of Moses [MATTHEW 12:1, 2].
Understand that the rules were made up by religious leaders.
They were not part of the Mosaic Law.
Consequently, Jesus responded by citing for them an event that occurred as David fled from Saul.
He also quoted for them HOSEA 6:6, a passage that pointedly reminded them that God sought a changed heart and not mere outward form, before declaring Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” [MATTHEW 12:3-8].
If His response to their complaining was not enough to infuriate them, then what He did next was calculated to drive them mad with rage—Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue.
Mark seems to indicate that the situation was a set-up, designed to entice Jesus into deliberately violating the Sabbath laws.
Notice especially the first two verses of MARK THREE: “[Jesus] entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him” [MARK 3:1, 2].
Did you catch that?
A man with a withered hand was prominently situated to ensure that Jesus saw him as He entered the synagogue.
Whether the man was party to the ruse or a dupe is not evident.
Mark is careful to state that those present in the synagogue “watched Jesus to see whether He would heal [the crippled man].”
It is apparent that many who were present on that day were in on the secret that they would catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma.
If He ignored the man with the withered hand, they would be able to point out that He was not compassionate.
If He healed the man, they could castigate Him as a violator of the Sabbath rules, telling the people that He did not honour the Law of Moses or the teachings of the religious leaders.
The account continues by informing us that Jesus called the man with the withered hand to come to Him.
Then, He asked those standing there a question they had failed to consider.
“Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
However, the Word of God notes that they were silent.
I especially want you to notice Jesus’ reaction to this hypocrisy: “He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.”
The Master then commanded the man to stretch out his hand.
When he stretched it out, his hand was restored [MARK 3:3-5].
The response of the religious leaders at being exposed as hypocrites was to conspire against Jesus, making plans to destroy Him [MATTHEW 12:14].
Something like that happens to this day whenever hypocrites are exposed.
They withdraw and conspire against those they hate.
Instead of changing their actions and confronting their errant attitudes, they are enraged and begin to plot evil.
Jesus’ response was to withdraw [MATTHEW 12:15], seeking, perhaps, to lower the tension in the face of pharisaical rage.
However, He could not avoid fulfilling the ministry the Father had assigned.
When a demon-oppressed man was brought to Him, He healed Him [MATTHEW 12:22].
The people began to wonder aloud whether He could indeed be the promised Messiah, but the Pharisees responded by speaking ill of Him.
Jesus’ response was to caution them against becoming so hardened in their hearts that they were eternally disqualified from the grace of God—He cautioned then against committing what we have come to identify as “the unpardonable sin.”
Jesus continued by saying, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.
You brood of vipers!
How can you speak good, when you are evil?
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” [MATTHEW 12:33-36].
The words are reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching delivered on another day.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
You will recognise them by their fruits.
Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus you will recognise them by their fruits” [MATTHEW 7:15-20].
A tree is to its fruit what a person’s heart is to his or her speech; you recognise what people are by their speech.
It is important for us to look more carefully at Jesus’ cautionary words in verses 33 and 34.
The Pharisees had ascribed the deliverance of a demon-oppressed man to the power of Satan.
Jesus pointed out that a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit.
If they are calling the tree rotten, then they are confessing that the fruit is rotten as well.
Likewise, if they are saying that the fruit is good, then the tree must likewise be good.
Fruit and root are intimately interconnected.
In the same way, we cannot say that one has a good message, but that he has evil motives.
Either the message is good and the motive is good, or the message is bad and the motive is equally bad.
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