Bible Question:

What does it mean in the Bible when it says that we will give an account of every idle word word we have spoken? Is this scripture only for the unbeliever or will the Christian also have to give an account for their words one day?

Bible Answer:

Recently a man stated that he did not believe there was a god. He was serious! Then he added, “But if I am wrong, I am sure I can negotiate with God and get into heaven.” He was confident that he could out negotiate God. That is arrogance since the very definition of the word “god” implies one who is vastly superior in every way to ourselves. The Bible has a great deal to say about how our eternal future will be determined. Jesus gives us some insight with this statement.

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. (NKJV) Matthew 12:36

Matthew 12:36. The key words in this passage are “idle” and “account.” The first word “idle” comes from the root Greek word ARGOS. It means “not busy, idle, inactive, doing nothing, and sterile.” When we apply it as Jesus did here in Matthew 12:36, it has the idea of careless or casual words. Our second word “account” comes from the Greek word APODIOMI which means to “give an answer.” Jesus is saying that everyone will have to give God an answer for even their casual comments. The gentleman above will have a difficult time when God asks him to justify every word he has ever spoken. God will not be interested in a wonderful presentation of the best parts of his life story. God will be digging into the details of his life – words, actions, and thoughts. God will be helping each non-Christian understand why he or she is going to hell. But Christians will not be judged for there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (NASB) Romans 8;1

In the verse (v. 35) just before this one, Jesus says that our words reveal the type of heart we have. The good heart of a Christian will bring forth good words and an evil heart speaks forth evil. The Pharisees had just spoken evil when they said that Jesus was using demonic power to perform His miracles. These evil words reveal the true nature of their hearts – evil.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (NKJV) Matthew 12:35-37

Jesus repeats this warning later in the gospel of Matthew when He says,

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man . . . (NASB) Matthew 15:18-20

Our Actions. God will review the conduct of all persons (Rev. 20:12) to help them understand that they deserve to go to hell. When a non-Christian comes before God, He is not starting His evaluation of his or her life. He already knows each person’s sins and He has already determined where each person is going. He is omniscient or all-knowing. The review is not for Him but for the individual. Each person’s evil deeds will be the proof that person is not a Christian.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJV) Galatians 5:19-21

Non-Christians can only do evil deeds. Christians can do good deeds (Eph. 2:8-9) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our Secret Thoughts. God will also review our secret thoughts and our conscience.

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (NKJV) Romans 2:14-16

When God is finished reviewing even our casual comments, our conduct, our secret thoughts, and the voice of our consciences, the unbelieving man and woman will understand they deserve to go to hell.


John 3:16 and 18 encourages us to believe in Jesus and depend on Him to forgive us our sins.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life . . .He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NKJV) John 3:16, 18

Those who do not come to Him have in fact rejected Jesus. God calls each one of us to come to Him. Those who give up on themselves and start “leaning” on God will start producing good deeds. That does not mean Christians are perfect, for even King David asked God to watch over His lips (Ps. 141:3). Christians will not be judged, for there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus (Rom. 8:1). But this is not true for non-Christians.

For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (NKJV) John 3:20-21

Matthew 12:36 is a warning to all to come to Jesus. For further reading there are three past questions that may be helpful: link #1, link#2, and link #3.