When Words Can Kill

But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” –Matthew 12:36, NIV.

I’ve been reading The White Rose by Inge Scholl which recounts the story of Sophie and Hans Scholl who were decapitated by the Nazis in 1943 for resisting the direction in which their country was going under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

At the time they were students and their protest consisted mainly in the publishing and distribution of leaflets decrying the actions of the Fascists. The group was never big–a half dozen or so–but obviously their written words were a thorn in the flesh to the regime.

As I read the verse for this morning and the context surrounding it I thought of the consequences that the words of these students had during that terrible time. Their words were not careless by any means. Sophie and Hans were deeply religious. They knew that what their country was seeing and experiencing was wrong and were driven to find a way to speak out even though they knew that it could cost them their lives.

Jesus’ words in Matthew highlight a slightly different problem. The Lord is in the midst of delivering a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees. They have accused Him of being possessed by the devil through whom, they say, He is doing His miracles.

That’s the height of blasphemy and Jesus tells them so. Evil speaks evil and though the Pharisees may claim to be good, their words tell a different story.

Jesus reminds His listeners to be careful what they say because their words have consequences. Those words will be judged. He goes on to say: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37, NIV).

Hans and Sophie were wrongly condemned for their words. Others will be rightly condemned for theirs. Proverbs 13:3 warns us: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he would speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Thinking first, then speaking, is a good guiding principle for life. Praying that God will hold us back from saying what shouldn’t be said, and giving us courage to say what needs to be said in a way that brings glory to Him, is part of that same principle of life that we all need to live by.

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