Thank you for your good question, my friend. I believe that to understand what the Lord Jesus was referring to in this portion that you have asked about, we must consider the context of Chapter 12 of Matthew as a whole. In this chapter, the religious leaders of the day, and in this case some of the Pharisees, had witnessed some of the miraculous works of our Lord Jesus; however, instead of believing on Him as the Christ of God, they had hardened hearts and wicked intentions; they would not recognize, despite His words and works, that in the person of Jesus, they had the very Christ or Messiah in their midst. They had instead utterly rejected Him, and they were seeking how they might destroy Him. Now, these folks, being teachers of the Scriptures, should have been able to recognize the Messiah of God by His words and His mighty works. If you consider the prophesies in Isaiah 7:14, 42:1-4, 35:6,7, 53, and 61:1-3, it should have been very clear to all of them that Jesus was in fact the Christ of God. But as we read in John 1:10-12, there were many in Israel who just would not receive Him. Now, unbelief does not necessarily mean that a person will never come to believe, since many Jews were saved during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. This is why the Lord Jesus came into this world in the first place (1 Timothy 1:15). But some of the Pharisees in this chapter not only refused to see that Jesus was their Messiah, but in verses 24-31, they went so far as to attribute His casting out of demons to the power of Satan rather than that of the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were hard and unbelieving, and their words reflected the evil intentions of their hearts.

In any case, as to the “idle words”, in verses 36 and 37, the Lord Jesus explained their folly and issued them this warning about “idle” words: “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”.

The word “idle” in this context means lacking purpose, thoughtless, or pointless. I’m not sure that I can list any other specific idle words, but I believe another good example might be found in II Peter 3:3-4:  “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation”. Those scoffers referred to in verse 3 will doubt the veracity of God’s Word and might even be poking fun at the forecast of judgment on the earth since they do not see it happening. As another example of “idle” words, I seem to recall that the first Russian cosmonaut to orbit the earth stated that he had been out in space and that he saw no God out there. But, for the unsaved, there is accountability for such thoughtless and silly remarks. Verses 5-7 of this same chapter goes on to tell about the fiery judgment that is to come in the end times. And, judgment is coming, as sure as we are reading this document. Such types of idle words which we see above, which take lightly the Words of the very creator and God of heaven and earth, are empty, deceitful, thoughtless and profitless statements, made in haste and without regard to the truth of God’s Holy Word. There is a day of reckoning for all of this, and because of this, Paul preached to the Greeks in Athens about the coming judgment, and about the only way to be saved from this, which is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in Acts 17:30,31: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead”. There is indeed a day of judgment coming upon the earth, and this will be when the Lord Jesus returns to the earth in power and glory and will put down all His enemies-the ungodly of the earth. Such silly, profitless comments as the ones above will be remembered by the Lord at the Great White Throne judgment spoken of in Revelation 20, and ungodly mankind will be held accountable for every word they spoke in unbelief and even in jest, and for every single wicked thing they did while alive on the earth if they have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

But now, you may ask, what if a born-again Christian should even in jest make such statements? Well, this is a very serious matter and one to be repented of; however, the good news is that our Lord Jesus purchased our pardon at the cross of Calvary, and through faith in His finished work there, we are saved from wrath and the judgment to come. We additionally have a heavenly, glorious destiny. Now, these careless statements that even a Christian might make, though sin, have been forgiven, and yet we read that we too will be accountable for our works. While we will yet be saved, there will be a review of our service to Christ at what we call “the judgment seat of Christ”. The works that we do which do not build on the foundation of Christ will be burned up as we read in 1 Corinthians 3:13. For this verse, I will quote from the MacDonald Bible Commentary: “In a coming day, each one’s work will become clear. Day refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ when all service for the Lord will be reviewed. The process of review is likened to the action of fire. Service that has brought glory to God and blessing to man, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will not be affected by the fire. On the other hand, that which has caused trouble among the people of God or failed to edify them will be consumed. The fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is”.

Just remember that if you are a born-again Christian, Christ Jesus has paid the price for your sins at Calvary, and you will never have to face God’s wrath and punishment for your sins are washed away by the blood of Christ. If we do happen to sin, as we all sometimes do, we are directed to confess our sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). On the other hand, if you have not yet believed on the Lord Jesus, you can take care of that today by repenting of your sins and believing on Christ as your Savior and Lord, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31).  (SF)  (515.3)