“I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter.” – Matthew 12:36 (NRSVUE)
Well, crap. I mean, shoot! I mean, sorry Jesus!
Some of us are out here talking about how Jesus is hugs and butterflies all the time. Meanwhile, he’s out here counting up every time I speak without thinking.
Every careless word? All of them? Yikes. Even if he looks at me lovingly and hugs me while saying, “I forgive you, dear child” after each account of a careless word, it’s still going to be pretty terrible to make our way through what I’m sure will be a very thick file.
He does offer a little hope in the next breath: he says that we may be condemned by our words, but we’ll be justified by our words as well. So the mercy I’m hoping for here is that he follows up the account of the careless words with an accounting of the careful ones, too.
Part of me hopes for this just so we can get the bad stuff out of the way and move on to the congratulatory portion of the program. But really, it’s because that will mean that even if I can’t take away all the damage my careless words have wrought, it will still matter when I say things like:
“What can I do?”
“I owe you repair. I’d like to do _________.”
“I didn’t know then. I know better now.”
“I really regret saying that. I wasn’t thinking. You deserve better.”
“Will you forgive me?”
If Jesus counts the words that justify us as well as the ones that condemn us, it means that I still have time to try to fix what my carelessness has done.
Grant me thoughtfulness. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.