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“These people honor me only with their words, for their hearts are so very distant from me. They pretend to worship me, but their worship is nothing more than the empty traditions of men” (Matthew 15:8-9, The Passion Translation). 

When I was five years old, I remember lying for the very first time. It wasn’t like I meant to cause any harm, but when faced with something that I desperately wanted, I would do anything to get it.

“Amber, did Grandma say you could take that from her house?” my mother questioned inquisitively. 

“Yes,” a small lie seeped out between my teeth.

“Are you sure?” she looked at me more intently. 

“Well,” I began. My heart began to throb as my eyes let out slivers of tears. 

She’d nailed me. And in a split second, I’d confessed the entire heinous act. From how I stuffed the item into my coat when Grandma wasn’t listening, to why I lied about it now. Before I could even let out an excuse, my mom marched me back to my Grandma’s house just down the road where a confession would be awaiting her. 

When Our Words Lose Their Value

I think as children, we are immune and naive to the fact that we are born sinful (Romans 3:23). And although we are creatures created by an Almighty God when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, it also entered our now tainted and weary hearts. And so, nevertheless, as a child, I quickly fell into that sin without realizing its repercussions.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was a good child. And I would say that my parents would agree. However, just because I was good didn’t mean I was exempt from the fallenness of this world. None of us are perfect, and all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. Even if that meant we lied, cheated, or stole a single time during on existence. 

Our Words Will Be Accounted For

In the moments that we lie, steal, or cheat, our words have lost their value. They no longer represent what they are supposed to, and their worth diminishes. And though I don’t lie, cheat, or steal today, the value that my words hold as an author, will also one day be accounted for. 

As the Word of Life Himself, Jesus takes the words we say (and don’t say for that matter) very seriously. Matthew 12:36 even notes that at the end of our time, we will be responsible for every word that ever came across our mouths and our hearts. 

How much greater will this judgment be for those of us who are writers and authors? How much greater will this be for those of us who write blogs, are Pastors, teachers, leaders, and speakers? How much greater will this be for those of us who have an impact on those around us using our words every single day?

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37, New International Version).

Why Do Our Words Matter?

A few chapters later, in Matthew 15, the verse I began this piece quoting, Jesus has an extensive red letter conversation with some Pharisees and Teachers of Law about a similar concept. 

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matthew 15:1-11, New International Version). 

While Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Religious Leaders because of their hypocrisy, I firmly believe that verses 8-9 also speak multitudes to us about the value and worth of our words. 

The New King James Version writes verses 8-9 this way: “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ ” (Matthew 15:8-9, New King James Version).

If Jesus was concerned about their lips over 2,000 years ago, He’s certainly concerned about our mouths and the words we utter today. And whether we want to hear this or not, He’s much less concerned with our lip service and much more concerned with our hearts.

Our Words Indicate Our Values

In Matthew chapter 6, it is written that we are to watch what we value, for what we value quickly becomes the treasure of our hearts.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, New International Version). 

But Jesus pushes us further to understand that whatever we value most will flow out of us (in word and deed). And for that reason, it is not what we physically eat or drink that can defile us, but what we let consume our hearts. 

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

(Luke 12:34, English Standard Version). 

Are Your Words Worthy or Worthless?

Today, I know that what we say and what we do, don’t always match. Even as an author, for example, I’m great at writing words that help others, but I often can’t help myself. And I don’t want this to be the case. I never want to write something (words), merely to publish it and help others, without allowing it to penetrate my own heart. 

Nevertheless, the point is this: There will come a day when I’ll stand face-to-face with the Word and Breath of Life Himself. And when that day comes, I will be held responsible for every single word I said, wrote, or didn’t. It’s my prayer for you and me that I will not only watch what I say and do, but I will do so much more than that. I don’t want to glorify God with only my words. I want to glorify Him with every part and fiber of my being–words included.

Although I am a writer and lover of words, I have been strongly convicted that words mean nothing if my heart is far from my mind, body, and soul. 

Today, and every day, I am seeking to honor God not solely with what I say, write, or do, but with everything I am. After all, if I have truly been transformed by Christ, my life is a living sacrifice to Him. And my words? They are just words, but I pray that they will be worth something to Him. 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, English Standard Version). 

Agape, Amber