I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
Careless words get us into trouble.
What exactly qualifies a word as careless? Anything we speak without giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors. It’s the words we speak without enough concern. And that concern involves so many aspects. Concern for truth. Concern for impact. Concern for motivation.
Just a few verses before, we find, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Matthew 12:33-34)
Careless describes our words and our motivations. It also describes us.
Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)
A women who was vulnerable, weak, and devastated from a chronic health condition pursued Jesus with strength and faith. She trusted Him and leaned forward toward Him. She reached with everything she had.
I think of her often as I pursue God. No matter how I feel, do I pursue Him with a similar strength and faith? Do I stretch with everything I have to reach Him?
Jesus responds to the woman with power and sensitivity. He encourages her.
He knows our pursuit and our faith, which encourages me. I can’t physically reach out and touch Him, but I can reach Him. And He responds with power and sensitivity. Every single time.
But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)
This might seem like an unsettling Scripture, but to me, it’s comforting. It reminds me that God knows my thoughts. And it challenges me, too, that He knows my thoughts!
No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re thinking about, God is well aware, and He’s interested. He always wants more and better for you. You can trust Him to guide. Let Him filter everything in your life, including your thoughts. You might be challenged, but you won’t be disappointed.
God doesn’t want us to worry, because He wants us to rely on Him. In Matthew 6, we’re given reasons for why we should worry about food, drink, and clothes; in a nutshell, “God’s got this.” There are a lot of people around the world who are genuinely concerned about food, drink, and clothes; most of us don’t fit into that category. We have plenty. But we still worry about something: family, health, job security, retirement, bills, transportation, and so on.
So, today is a fill-in-the-blank lesson on worry. Perhaps the lesson is more about releasing worry and trusting God to take care of us in His way and timing. I’m including the basic structure of the end of Matthew 6. Think about what you would put in the blanks.
Don’t worry about your life, what you will ___________________; or about your body, what you will _________________. Isn’t life more than __________ and the body more than ___________? … Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about ___________? … So don’t worry, saying, “______________?” or “_____________?” or “______________?” But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25,27-28a,31,33-34)
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)
It’s difficult to walk the line of being an example for others without calling attention to yourself. We want to encourage and challenge others, but we need to do so humbly. And that’s difficult in today’s social media-saturated culture. There are so many voices screaming for everyone’s attention.
But maybe that’s not all that different from the past. Sure, the method of delivery, speed, and availability might be different, but the inundation of voices have probably been challenging in different ways through the years.
And no matter the specific challenges, humility will always be in style. Well, perhaps not in style, but a good goal to have.
Look at the nations and observe—be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (Habakkuk 1:5, HCSB)
When I first glanced at this, I thought “Isn’t this the case?” I thought of all the junk that goes on in our world today. It’s nothing new. Nations and people have had issues and struggles pretty much since forever. And we’re not going to solve it all.
But setting this aside for a moment, I glanced at the verse again.
You see, Habakkuk isn’t groaning about all the junk in the world. That’s not what is astounding. Another translation says, “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” (NASB)
The reason for the astonishment and wonder isn’t negative, it’s positive! And what we can’t believe isn’t what people are doing but what God is doing.
Well, that changes things.
Sometimes we need to look at something again. Look at people again. Look at a situation again. Look at God again.
Sometimes people will notice a difference in you as a Christian, but they won’t completely “get it.” Because they don’t understand or relate, they’ll describe it as it makes sense to them.
The king said to David, “I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.” (Daniel 5:14)
Well, close. Not exactly “the spirit of the gods.” A few verses later, Daniel gives credit to the Most High God. He doesn’t lecture the king or openly tell him he’s wrong. He maintains respect and dignity for the king while honoring God.
We don’t have to clash in harsh disagreement with people, even when we find error. We can be more patient and gracious than that. Sure, we want to correct people, but there are ways to convey truth without demeaning someone. After all, who pays attention to the content of what someone says when that person is slapping and berating them with words? Not me.
Have (and show) more respect – for yourself, others, and God.