A couple of days ago, I was reading a verse of Scripture, and it reminded me of my time in Palestine, Texas. At the close of the service one Sunday, a wonderful lady with a broken heart asked me to pray for her.
This elderly woman lived just around the corner from the church, and she had a reputation for being serious about her faith. Her request left me perplexed. I couldn’t imagine that she would ever commitment such a grievous sin that it would leave her so troubled.
I asked her, “Mrs. B, just what is that you want me to pray about and what have you done?” She replied, “Pastor, I need to repent because I’ve said a “by word.”
Due to my time in the military and working in the oil field, I knew a lot about cuss words, but I was a little mystified about a “by word.” To clarify the issue, I asked Mrs. B: “What is it that you said?” Her eyes filled with tears and she ducked her head and said: “Darn.”
I know it is a play on the words of Jesus, but when I read Matthew 12:37, I’m reminded of Mrs. B—“by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Mrs. B wanted to testify that her “by word” had left her squirming because her words didn’t edify and weren’t affirming. She knew her Bible, and she knew what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (4:29).”
If you’ve ever read the book of James, it’s easy to see that he agrees with Paul concerning the power of the spoken word. James even says the tongue is the index of the heart, and it reveals your true nature and character:
• James 1:26: If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself.
• James 3:6: The tongue pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.
• James 3:8: No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
I’ve been in rooms where the air was blue because of salty language rolling off the tongues of angry and boisterous people. Sadly, swearing and cussing have become far too fashionable, and most people no longer worry about a “by word.”
Think about it: Can get you really get by with these kind of words, or did Jesus say they carry a high price tag? He said: “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”