Economic recession inevitably leads to an increase in unemployment. And the higher the percentage of people out of work, the more problems our social agencies have to deal with. Alcohol and drug abuse increases. Domestic violence rises. Crime rates go up. Some people just can’t seem to stay out of trouble when they have idle time on their hands.

The same principle applies to our speech. In Jesus’ warning about “every idle word men may speak,” the word idle literally means “out of work.” When our tongue is out of work—not being used for constructive and useful purposes—we are more likely to get in trouble with it. We find it so easy to say the kinds of things that are disrespectful, slanderous, cruel, or immoral.

Warnings against the sinful use of words are numerous in the Bible. “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking” (Prov. 10:19). “Whoever spreads slander is a fool” (v.18). “Their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue” (Ps. 5:9).

If we keep our speech edifying, productive, and wholesome, we won’t have sinful words to account for—because our tongue won’t be “out of work.”