Matthew 12:36
But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(36) Every idle word that men shall speak.—The teaching, though general in form, still looks back to the hard, bitter words of the Pharisees which had been the starting-point of the discourse. Our Lord does not speak, as we might have expected, of “every evil word,” but of “every idle—i.e., useless and purposeless—word,” the random utterances which, as being more spontaneous, betray character more than deliberate speech. Such an “idle word” had been the passing taunt, “He casteth out devils by Beelzebub.” It is not said, however, that for every such random speech a man shall be condemned, but that he shall give an account for it. It will enter into that great total which determines the divine estimate of his character, and, therefore, the issues of the great “day of judgment.”

Matthew 12:36-37. But I say unto you — You may perhaps think God does not much regard your words, but I assure you, that not only for blasphemous and profane, malicious, false, slanderous, and reviling words, but for every idle word which men shall speak: for all light, vain, trifling expressions; for all useless, unprofitable conversation, and all discourse uttered without seriousness and caution, and which does not conduce to the glory of God and the good of mankind; that men shall speak — At any time, or on any occasion, they shall give an account in the day of judgment — “I cannot think,” says Dr. Doddridge, “that our Lord here uses αργον, idle, merely to signify mischievous. We are certainly accountable for useless as well as wicked discourses, and they will be taken into that last survey which is to determine our character and state: which they whose life is one continued scene of whim, or sneering raillery, would do well seriously to consider. And it was to our Lord’s purpose to observe it here, as it inferred, by the strongest consequence, the danger of such vile and criminal discourses as those of the Pharisees in this case. But discourse tending to exhilarate the spirits is not idle discourse; as the time spent in necessary recreation is not idle time; nor does a wise and gracious God expect from men the life of angels. If any are dissatisfied with the account of things here given, I would beg leave to ask them whether unprofitable talk be not a sinful wasting of time? and whether that must not render a man in some degree criminal before God?” For by thy words — That is, by the evidence of thy words, as well as of thy tempers and works, thou shall be justified, &c. — Shalt be either acquitted or condemned; since by the tenor of these the disposition of thy heart is shown, and thy true character discovered. Therefore these shall be produced in evidence for or against thee at the great day, and by this evidence thou shalt then stand or fall.12:33-37 Men's language discovers what country they are of, likewise what manner of spirit they are of. The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication. An evil man has an evil treasure in his heart, and out of it brings forth evil things. Lusts and corruptions, dwelling and reigning in the heart, are an evil treasure, out of which the sinner brings forth bad words and actions, to dishonour God, and hurt others. Let us keep constant watch over ourselves, that we may speak words agreeable to the Christian character.But I say unto you ... - Christ closes this address to his malignant and wicked hearers by a solemn declaration that for these things God would bring them into judgment. Therefore. They who had spoken so malignantly against him, could not escape.

Idle word - This literally means a vain, thoughtless, useless word; a word that accomplishes no good. Here it means, evidently, "wicked, injurious, false, malicious, for such" were the words which they had spoken.

36. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment—They might say, "It was nothing: we meant no evil; we merely threw out a supposition, as one way of accounting for the miracle we witnessed; if it will not stand, let it go; why make so much of it, and bear down with such severity for it?" Jesus replies, "It was not nothing, and at the great day will not be treated as nothing: Words, as the index of the heart, however idle they may seem, will be taken account of, whether good or bad, in estimating character in the day of judgment." See Poole on "Matthew 12:37". But I say unto you,.... This form of speaking is used, the more strongly to asseverate the truth of what is after said; and the rather, because men are apt to indulge a liberty with their tongues; fancying no great crime is committed, when only words are spoken, and no facts done;

that every idle word that a man shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. By an "idle word" is meant, what the Jews call, , "light conversation", and , "vain discourse", as the Hebrew Gospel of Munster reads it here; frothy language, unprofitable talk, which, though it does not directly hurt God or man, yet is of no use to speaker or hearer; and yet even this, in the last general and awful judgment, if not forgiven, and repented of, must be accounted for; and much more such horrid blasphemies the Pharisees had vented against Christ, and the Spirit of Christ. The Jews (d) have a saying pretty much like this,

"That even , "for any light conversation", which passes between a man and his wife, he shall "be brought to judgment".''

(d) R. Jonah apud L. Capell. in loc.

But I say unto you, That every {e} idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

(e) Vain and unprofitable trifles, which for the most part, men spend their lives in search of.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 12:36 f. Nominative absolute, as in Matthew 10:14; Matthew 10:32.

ἀργόν] meaning, according to the context, morally useless, which negative expression brings out the idea more pointedly than πονηρόν, the reading of several Curss., would have done. Comp. λόγοι ἄκαρποι in Plato, Phaedr. p. 277 A.

ἐκ γὰρ τῶν λόγων σου, κ.τ.λ.] For on thy words will be founded thine acquittal, on thy words will be founded thy condemnation in the Messianic judgment. The connection required that this matter of a man’s accountability for his words should be prominently noticed; and, seeing that the words are to be regarded as the natural outcome of the disposition, such accountability is quite consistent with justice; nor does it exclude responsibility for his actions as well, though this does not come into view in connection with the subject now under consideration. With reference to the bearing of this saying on justification by faith, Calovius appropriately observes: “Quid enim aliud sermones sancti, quam fides sonans?” and vice versâ.36. idle] Rather, useless, ineffectual for good. Words must be not only not evil, but they must be actively good. The same principle rules the decisionat the final judgment (ch. Matthew 25:45).Matthew 12:36. Ῥῆμα, word) A nominative absolute, as in Luke 21:6; John 17:2; Acts 7:40; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21, and in the S. V. of Psalms 17(18):31.—ἀργὸν, idle) not only evil. Goodness of treasury does not produce even anything idle.[579]—ἀποδώσουσι λόγον, they shall render account) i.e., they shall pay the penalty of. A metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent.

[579] I can hardly think that it can be proved by the Arabic idiom, that this precept of our Lord ought to be restricted to lies; for the words λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν not obscurely intimate that the language of Christ moves in a descending climax, and that from evil words, mentioned in Matthew 12:35, He goes down also to idle words. Compare the similar Epitasis (successive increase in the force by the descending climax) in αἰσχρότης, μωρολογία, εὐτραπελία, Ephesians 5:4. Let us weigh well the caution which is found in Matthew 5:19, and which can never be too much recommended to all Critics, Teachers, and Sacred Orators, when about to enter on the investigation of the force of expressions and phrases, especially in morals.—E. B.Verses 36, 37. - Matthew only. Verse 36. - But (δέ); and (Revised Version). The adversative particle hints at the contrast of ver. 35 to their ordinary ideas about the importance of words. I say unto you, That every idle (ἀργόν); i.e. effecting nothing, morally useless; 2 Peter 1:8 (cf. καταργεῖ, Luke 13:7). Word (ῤῆμα); see ver. 37, note. That men shall speak, they shall give account thereof (ἀποδώσουσι λόγον: cf. 1 Peter 4:5) in the day of judgment (Matthew 10:15, note). Idle (ἀργὸν)

A good rendering. The word is compounded of ἀ, not, and ἔργον, work. An idle word is a non-working word; an inoperative word. It has no legitimate work, no office, no business, but is morally useless and unprofitable.

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