“[It will not] do to question how many of the converts are Christians at all, for that is a factor that has to be faced by all movements where rapid growth takes place. My own experiences of ministering in charismatic circles do not encourage me to think that there is a higher proportion of spurious conversions in charismatic groups than in other groups in the same society. But the reasons for their more rapid growth are complex. The growth is not because they have been endued with the Spirit and very few others have been, as charismatics seem to think. I suspect it is more connected with the fact that charismatics are, in general, quicker to talk about their experiences with God, their faith, the way God has worked in their lives. Effective evangelism depends on many people gossiping the Gospel.” (page 182, emphasis mine)
This last line, which is vintage Carson, led me to ponder the content of my gossip and small talk, which subject has occupied my thoughts on more than one occasion. I am simply amazed at the logorrheic shallowness of much of my (and, if my experience is any indicator, perhaps also others’) speech, and especially at how much of my time and energy such vapid discourse claims. With that in mind, consider these words of Our Lord:
“I tell you this: every thoughtless word you speak you will have to account for on the day of judgement. For out of your own mouth you will be acquitted; out of your own mouth you will be condemned.” (St Matthew 12:36-37, REB).
The broader context of these logia is Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees, who have thoughtlessly blasphemed the Holy Spirit by ascribing his exorcism and healing of a blind and mute man to Beelzebul (cf. 12:22ff.). The point that Jesus drives home here is that one’s words spoken thoughtlessly betray one’s true character. The Pharisees, of course, were quite aware of the propositional content of their deliberate accusation (one, I venture, perhaps not untinged by gleeful sarcasm), but carelessly failed to take into account the ultimate implications of their words. In this they revealed their true character, which Our Lord compares, among other things, to a bad tree only capable of bad fruit (cf. verses 33-35). In a similar way, we all too often give very little thought to the gossip and idle talk (reeking, as is nearly always the case, with mordant sarcasm and cheap humor) to which we commit enormous amounts of time and energy, and much less ponder the ultimate (eternal!) implications of these seemingly trivial activities. In this we too betray our true character, and thereby sign our sentence of condemnation. For this we will be held accountable.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we left all such nonsense behind, and committed all of that time and energy to gossiping the Gospel, instead?