“Pointing out the faults of others is often a tool to make us feel better about ourselves and mask our own imperfections. This often results in the harmful neglect of good things. We do live in an imperfect world, but we can rejoice in the fact that God accepts us all in our imperfection.”-Steven Sonafrank
Through various Social Media platforms, humanity is experiencing a worldwide connectivity and sharing of information that has never existed. It has opened the door for positive collaboration and information sharing on a global level. But it has also provided an avenue for the amplification of criticism, gossip, judgment, slander, vulgarity, and all forms of negativity. However, we can’t just point at digital communication and say, “There’s the problem!” It has simply amplified the toxic conversations that take place in homes, schools, cars, small groups, churches, and offices.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matthew 12:36
I’ve heard these words of Jesus used as a weapon of judgment by many who have a poor understanding of Scripture. Some have said that it is wrong to even tell a joke or have a random conversation, as it is a “careless word.” They’re wrong. Jesus is addressing our tendency to use our words to cut down others in a careless manner. If Jesus were teaching this in English today, this quote would more likely read, “Every careless word of judgment they speak or type.”
“…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37
The above Bible verse should be one of the most frightening to us in our modern context. How often do we use our conversations to spread gossip about or pronounce judgment on someone with whom we disagree? Now, consider that, in the context of Jesus’ admonishment, we will be judged by our own words. This should make Christians desire to be the most merciful and gracious people to ever exist.
An individual who speaks negatively of others not only impacts the object of their vitriol, s/he reveals the darkness in his/her own heart, and this has an impact beyond just the conversation. Recently, I had a conversation with my teenage daughter about her frustration with people who only seem to have negative things to say and try to involve her in it. She said to me, “I never hear you saying a negative thing about anyone.” It was then I was able to explain why I don’t believe in gossip, slander, or demeaning people in general.
James writes that even our worship of God is negated by our cursing of others:
“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” James 3:9-10
We don’t know the entirety of anyone else’s story or what they’ve been through. When we decide to judge another person based on our limited knowledge, we are essentially saying “I am God.” The response of Jesus to our desire to take God’s place as the judge of others is to say that we will be judged by our own pronouncement.
Maybe the best measure by which to gauge our words is to remember that we are all imperfect and in need of a savior.