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The Epidemic of Idle Talk

‘Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation’. 

Mathew 12: 36-37 (Message Bible)

Sometime this past week, I was in my kitchen, cooking and humming to myself, when the sharp, loud voice of my next-compound neighbour broke my reverie. She was reprimanding God-knows-who (most likely her maid) and all sorts of unprintable words were being hurled relentlessly by her at her silent companion. 

I found the words jarring. Her tirade saddened me and reminded me for the umpteenth time how the careless use of words has become a societal epidemic.

The malady of idle, careless words seems to be everywhere we turn in society. Bus drivers and conductors mouthing crudites; young children, adolescents and adults exchanging vulgar banters; angry parents raining curses on their erring children; showbiz celebrities entertaining us with obscene utterances …The list goes on. 

Idle, negative words are spoken all around us. Sadly, this manner of speech has also crept into the midst of believers. So we see bible-believing, tongue-talking, Holy Ghost-filled brethren also ‘’speaking french’’ and feeling cool while at it. 

The snag is, Jesus doesn’t regard these utterances as cool. He considers them abominable; an anomaly in the midst (and mouths) of His followers. But we might ask: is it really a big deal? Why does He frown at something as trivial as our everyday discourse?

Scripture makes it clear to us that as He is, so are we in this world (I John 4:17). Can you picture Jesus mouthing obscenities, cursing, ‘’yabbing’’ (i.e. abusing) his friends, cracking off-colour jokes or just speaking carelessly? Since it is impossible for our Role Model to speak that way, we have no business endorsing such expressions.

Idle talk is not restricted to the ones highlighted above. Some of us may be too ‘’born again’’ to go the sinful route of speaking vulgar, outrightly damaging words. I mean, we know better than that. But… do we find ourselves often (or occasionally) speaking fear instead of faith? Doubt instead of God’s word? Defeat instead of victory? 

These negative convos also qualify as displeasing in the sight of our heavenly Role Model. And you know what? When we speak fear, doubt and defeat, we often believe we are painting a true picture of how things actually are; saying it as it really is. The ten spies thought they were giving a realistic situation report on the land of Canaan, but God reckoned their narration an evil report! (Numbers 13:31-33; 14:1-25)

So how do we guard our minds and mouths from engaging in idle rhetoric? How do we ensure that at no point in time are we giving an evil report under the guise of ‘’I’m just being realistic’’? 

I think we already know the answer: our minds and mouths must be filled with the word of God, and not the junk society strives to feed us. Philippians 4:8 spells out for us exactly what should (and by extension, what shouldn’t) find its way into our thoughts and vocabulary bank. With the word of Christ dwelling in us richly, and the spirit of God gaining ascendancy over our tongue, we can’t go wrong.


Written by Theodora

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