Day 120: Matthew 12:34-37

You snakes – how can you say good things when you are evil?  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of his treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of his treasure of bad things.

You can be sure that on the Judgment Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken.  Your words will be used to judge you – to declare you either innocent or guilty.

[Jesus continues to lecture the Pharisees about the authority to drive out demons. See Day 116 for background.]

This is the last in a series of statements Jesus makes after the Pharisees accuse him of using the devil’s power to drive out demons.  It’s really kind of funny.  After having engaged them with all kinds of logic in the previous scriptures, he caps it off by calling them names.  He calls them snakes. “You snakes”, he says.  In the King James version it’s “brood of vipers.”  I’m laughing at this.  The next time I hear someone telling their kids that they shouldn’t call people names I will think of Jesus calling the Pharisees snakes.


After calling them snakes he talks about their mouths reveal what’s in their hearts.  Then he warns them about the power of words and how they can get you into trouble.  He tells them that outspoken ignorance has a way of coming back to haunt you.

Jesus’ warning about the power of words is an important Jewish tradition.  All you have to do is go to the book of Proverbs for a lot of warnings about words:

  • A good person’s words are like pure silver; a wicked person’s ideas are worthless (Proverbs 10:20).
  • A good person’s words will benefit many people, but you can kill yourself with stupidity (Proverbs 10:21).
  • Righteous people speak wisdom, but the tongue that speaks evil will be stopped. (Proverbs 10:31).
  • It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet (Proverbs 11:12)
  • Proud fools talk too much; the words of the wise protect them (Proverbs 14:3).
  • When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive, but stupid people spout nonsense (Proverbs 15:2).
  • Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is then more persuasive (Proverbs 16:23).
  • What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words. (Proverbs 18:22).

Gotta love those Proverbs.  Zingers, strategic as a sniper’s bullets.  They get right to the heart of things.  And the heart is where all those bad words come from.  If there are a lot of bad things coming out of your mouth, you need to work on the state of your heart.  You should be able to see a lot of love in there. If that isn’t what you see you need to get some help from a good spiritual adviser.

So watch your mouth because if you say something evil Jesus will call names.  “You snake,”  he will say.  As for the eternal consequences of Judgment Day, I will start sharing about that on Day 122.  Stay tuned.

What does this scripture say to you?


2 thoughts on “Day 120: Matthew 12:34-37

  1. OK let’s see what else can be said about snakes and vipers “name calling.” One thing is that John the Baptist used the same language when he was baptizing at the river Jordan, “ When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees crossing to him to be baptized, he said to them, ‘You snakes—who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send.’” And the tirade goes on and on. Was this the kind of street trash talk in Nazareth that John and Jesus grew up on? Another thought comes from the fact that, although Luke has John doing snake name calling only Matthew has this snake name calling by Jesus, which he continues throughout the Gospel (12:34, 23:16) Maybe Matthew was a herpetologist, a collector and student of snakes. (lol)
    OK. Now what’s with snakes or vipers, Here is the description of snake or viper in Harper’s Bible Dictionary: “Viper, a genus of snakes prevalent in the ancient world, some of which were poisonous and some not. Because the bite of the poisonous viper could be fatal, people naturally wanted to avoid any contact with any type. Consequently, the term viper came to be used figuratively as a designation for evil (cf. Isa. 30:6; 59:5; Job 20:16) or for people who were evil (cf. Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7.
    Since Jesus was always trying to be graphic and use well known metaphors to get his point across, in this case that words can hurt as we say these days, doesn’t this fit in with what Jesus would say to make the point that is repeated over and over again in Proverbs. Jesus is not sweet on these matters. Think of bullying words today that cause suicides, “snakes and vipers!” Poisonous bites.
    At the same time these words used against the Pharisees and Sadducees have been used to stoke the tragic fire of anti-Semitism over the century and dangerous trash talk to the present day. Name calling is never a good thing by whatever name it is called. Peace.

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