Harmlessly Indifferent

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. ~ Matthew 5:37

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. ~ Matthew 5:37

    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

This verse haunts me. Every so often something will trigger its memory. It’s a sober verse I should not let slip, but it seems to get away so easily.

Any verse that speaks of “judgment” and “account” should be given due heed, but we just do not like to face those realities. I mean, I have bills to pay, a garage to clean, and a magazine article I started the other day that needs to be finished. I am only half-way through the ten ways to know if I perceive myself the same way my friends perceive me. Where did I put that magazine?

Just kidding about the magazine. The point is: There are endless activities and pursuits that keep us from meditating on the Word of God and otherwise fulfilling God’s Word in ways that bear Christ-glorifying fruit in the world. Taken on the surface, these things are not inherently bad or wrong. We think of them as harmlessly indifferent. But that brings us back to our text and the fact that harmlessly indifferent is an oxymoron.

Jesus’ warning states that people will give an account of “every idle word” they speak. This warning doesn’t get the traction it should because it doesn’t fit the typical categories. We associate judgment or giving account with the categories good or bad. There are good words and bad words. As long as we stay a mark above bad on the scale, we are fine. We acknowledge the existence of idle words, but we think they don’t matter. We think they are harmlessly indifferent.

According to our text, God thinks much differently about idle words. The word for idle here literally means inactive, unfruitful, barren. It is used here in the sense of ineffective or worthless. Idle words are worthless words. They are not bad words, just words that are unuseful.

Though idle words may technically be morally neutral, they do matter. Jesus said that God will require an account of every one. When they are placed in a balance, they will tip the scale to bad. I am not suggesting idle words are unforgivable sins. Christ died for our idle words as much as our other sins. The point is: Idle words are not harmless and therefore, they are not really indifferent either.

Problem or No

And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. ~ 1 Samuel 17:47

And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. ~ 1 Samuel 17:47

Absolute sovereignty poses a problem for not a few modern minds. It is supposed that if God is ultimately in control, it would not really matter what we did. They object, more or less, that this removes all motivation man would have in doing right or what God commands to be done.

I don’t find the faithful in the Bible to suffer from such a crisis of doubt. If you were to pose this problem to David, I imagine he would respond with thoroughly furrowed brow, “That maketh no sense.” Allow me to explain.

The Philistines sought opportunity against Israel after they had anointed David king. They spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim to fight. David went down to the hold and “inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? Wilt thou deliver them into mine hand?” (2 Samuel 5:19). David did not march to battle immediately. He sought direction from the Lord.

God responded by giving David a command and a promise. “And the LORD said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand” (2 Samuel 5:19). David had a direction to go and a sure word of victory. What did he do?

    And David came to Baal-perazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-perazim. And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.” ~ 2 Samuel 5:20-21

David went and fought and won the victory. He also gave the glory to God for it.

What do we learn from this?

  1. The surety of victory beforehand did not cause David to think he had no responsibility. He did not think he didn’t have to go because God had already promised the victory. The opposite was the case. David went forth with zeal and energy to do the Lord’s bidding. The sovereignty of God empowered David.
  2. The battle being won by the Lord did not mean they didn’t have to really fight. They had to plan, march, and fight with all the energy, skill, and wisdom they had.

What does this mean for us today? For one thing, if Christ says we are to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (John 6:37), we should go and preach with all our energy. And when the victory come, we should praise Him for it.

Sin is Short

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23

Sin is a popular and pervasive practice, but it is not considered to be the appropriate topic of polite conversation. The world views sin subjectively and relatively. Scarcely can we find two agreed on what it is. Many believe the whole notion to be antiquated and irrelevant. This is why we do not hear of thoughts, words, or actions in terms of right or wrong, but rather appropriate or inappropriate. Everything is relative and who is really to say what is right or wrong?

God defines sin precisely and absolutely in His Word. He is the judge and it is His word that matters. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden for ultimately wanting the right to define sin for themselves. Defining sin is God’s right alone and He will not share it with any other being. He defines and describes sin in numerous ways in the Scripture.

  • All unrighteousness is sin ~ 1 John 5:7
  • Whatsoever is not of faith is sin ~ Romans 14:23
  • To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin ~ James 4:17
  • An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin ~ Proverbs 21:4
  • The thought of foolishness is sin ~ Proverbs 24:9

Romans 3:23 gives us a meaningful view of sin—it is falling short of God’s glory. God has a high mark and all sin always comes short of it. God measures all sin against the standard of His glorious, righteous, holiness, and all sin is short. God speaks to all men in Belshazzar: “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27).

Men fall short in three key areas in all their thoughts, words, and actions.

  1. They fail to do all they do to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  2. They fail to love God whole-heartedly. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
  3. They fail to believe God. “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Sin is short—short of God’s glory, short of God’s love, and short of faith. Man’s best works come up short. Whether it is deemed polite or appropriate, we must faithfully preach against sin. If we do not preach against sin, we are trying to do something Christ never did—call the righteous to repentance (Luke 5:32).

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