Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Every idle word

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36).

As various events and thoughts and fantasies and scribblings and tomfoolery, going all the way back to my earliest childhood, keep unexpectedly resurfacing and finding their place in the sync-stream, I've been thinking about this saying attributed to Jesus.

I guess the conventional reading is that you will stand before God as he goes through your life with a fine-tooth comb, checking how faithfully you tithed mint and anise and cumin, and you will have to own up to every tiniest misdeed, every slightly unworthy thought, every word spoken out of turn. One after another they will be brought up, and you'll hang your head and say, "Yep, you got me again, Lord. Another idle word. Guilty as charged. No, I agree, it was quite idle. One of the idlest. You'll get no excuses from me, Lord. Have mercy on me, a sinner, a letter-slip of idle words. Oh, yes, that was another one. Very idle. Guilty, guilty. Your judgments are just, O Lord. . . ."

But suppose it doesn't mean that. Suppose "give an account" means give an account. Your job isn't to plead guilty again and again; it's to make it make sense. Everything has to be integrated into a coherent story. Nothing can just be tossed out as irrelevant and meaningless. Great sins are relatively easy to deal with -- nothing easier than to construct a story about someone doing terrible things and then seeking redemption. No, the real challenge is those idle words, the odds and ends -- but they, too, will be redeemed, will find their place in the great edifice. And sometimes -- not often but sometimes -- a stone the builders rejected will become the head of the corner.

Nothing can be discarded or erased, because life is sacred and "thou shalt not kill" is absolute. "The results of a single act never stop working," said Tyco Bass. "In the affairs of living creatures, once a stone is dropped in the water, the circles go on widening forever." The only way to stop that is the dishonest way of willful forgetting, and that is unacceptable. No part of a life, no matter how trivial, can be deleted; it can only be redeemed.

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not (Mosiah 4:30).

King Benjamin's words, like Christ's as reported by Matthew, can be read in a conventional way: Make sure you never ever think or say or do anything wrong, or you are damned. (Yeah, good luck with that!) But look at what he's actually saying: watch, observe, continue in the faith, and above all remember. Remember, and perish not -- because in the end those are the only two choices. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Everything must be redeemed. Any partial resurrection is to that degree a resurrection of damnation.

1 comment:

cae said...

Wow! I needed to read that today - I have literally just (before opening your blog) been on my knees repenting and apologizing to God for raging at Him all morning...over something relatively inconsequential.

How very serendipitous! Thanks William!

How beautiful upon the mountains are their feet!

In his July 21 post " Twister, 'The Extreme', and Shine On ," William Wright mentions a couple of Book of Mormon passages ...