John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

36 (Matthew 12:36)

Verse 36

36.Of every idle word This is an argument from the less to the greater; for if every idle word is to be called in question, how would God spare the open blasphemies and sacrilegious insolence of those who bark against his glory? (139) An idle word means one that is useless, or that yields no edification or advantage. Many look upon this as too severe; (140) but if we consider the purpose for which our tongues were made, we will acknowledge, that those men are justly held guilty who unthinkingly devote them to trifling fooleries, and prostitute them to such a purpose. It is no light fault to abuse, for frivolous purposes, the time, which Paul enjoins us to be careful to redeem, (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5.)

Now since no man is so cautious in speech, or maintains such a wise restraint upon himself, as never to allow some idle words to escape him, there remains for all of us absolute despair, if the Lord should treat us with rigor. But as the confident hope of our salvation rests on the assurance that God will not enter into judgment with us, (Psalms 143:2,) but will bury in gracious forgetfulness the sins which deserve innumerable deaths, (141) we entertain no doubt that, when he removes the condemnation of our whole life, he will likewise pardon the guilt of idle talking. When the judgment of God is mentioned in Scripture, it does not in any way set aside the forgiveness of sins. And yet let no man indulge himself, but let every man earnestly endeavor to bridle his tongue, (James 1:26.) First, let us speak of the sacred mysteries of God with the utmost reverence and sobriety; secondly, let us abstain from talkativeness, buffoonery, and vain jests, and much more from slanderous attacks; and, lastly, let us endeavor to have our speech seasoned with salt, (Colossians 4:6.)

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible