Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat” used in a conversation? Interesting little thought provoker. How about, “You are what you say,” maybe not quite so often? Matthew recorded a statement similar to that spoken by Christ, Himself, to a group of listeners, possibly made up of mostly Pharisees. The text noted above is the record of that conversation.
Christ reminds us that it is our heart that determines what is on the outside, just like the tree – a good tree brings forth good fruit; a bad tree brings forth bad fruit. Therefore the focus is truly on what is on the inside…the heart…not so much the outside. Remember that! We as man, prone to do the will of our sinful nature, often struggle with having the outside match the inside when the inside has been transformed to something good by the Holy Spirit. It takes effort to learn control and rely upon the guiding of the Holy Spirit in all that we do.
However, Christ did not stop there. He kept on going with another statement to ensure we understood the fullness of what He was speaking about. He continues with the idea that words are important and need to have purpose; they must have “work” to do. The Greek behind the term “idle” in verse 36 is literally “non-working”; giving the sense that the word is spoken just to be spoken…it has no purpose or meaning other than to be a noise. To coincide with that non-working sense, He used just a general term for word “rhema” and then later in the same verse switches to a different word (logos) – here translated “account” – to depict the difference between the ideas. Specifically in this instance, by context, one is just that which is spoken (rhema), the other is something that has a purpose (logos). Note the words with purpose are given at the Day of Judgment.
In the next verse, He continues with an explanation of the need for those purposeful words: justification or condemnation. The term He used translated as “words” in both instances here in verse 37 is logos, giving the connection between the latter part of the preceding verse and this verse. It is by those purposeful words that we will be judged along with the multitude of other thoughts, words, and actions.
Remember that it is the heart that is of utmost importance here, not just the tongue because we, as man, can be dual minded in that we say things contrary to that which is truly in our hearts whether good or bad. But know this: salvation is an act of God upon the belief of the heart of a man. Yet, we shall give “account” for what we speak at the Day of Judgment. Let us remember that children’s song…”Oh, be careful little tongue what you say.” It is through the state of the heart, “accounts” of the words spoken, and deeds done, that judgment will be passed.