Week 11: The Power of Words
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:1-12
Now…depending on how old you are, you grew up hearing this phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Jesus disagrees. He knows that words matter.
With a word, God spoke into existence the very solar system that we inhabit. In fact, our words reveal what is in our hearts. Jesus says in Matthew 15:18, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…”. Since we have been spending our year deepening our relationship with Jesus, then at some point that heart transformation should be reflected in the way that we talk.
Now, I think it’s important to understand what James says about the tongue in light of what Jesus says about our heart. The Bible is not teaching that if we can just clean up our mouths then everything will be clean. Instead, the Bible is teaching that if our mouths are clean then it is evidence that something has happened in our hearts. And here I’m not just talking about simply not saying bad words.
Did you know that you can curse people with good words and bless people with cuss words? More times than I can count, after a service at Eleven22, someone has approached me and said “That was a *bleeping* great sermon.” To which I reply, “Thanks, I think.” You see in this incident someone is using bad words to say a good thing. They are actually trying to bless me.
On the other hand, if my Grandmom were to say to you, “well bless your heart,” what she actually means is that you are too dumb to know any better. She is using good words to curse you. Now, this is not a license to use foul language. Ephesians 4:29 instructs us that no corrupt communication should proceed out of our mouths. This is a warning that WORDS MATTER.
Proverbs 12:18 says “Careless words stab like a sword, but wise words lead to healing.” Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Words are POWERFUL. Words reveal our hearts. If we have received Life from God - - that we did not deserve - - then shouldn’t our words be bathed in that same grace that was freely given to us?
Shouldn’t our words especially toward our coworkers and our spouses and our kids and our neighbors be full of life and encouragement?
So let me ask you, what do your words reveal about the condition of your heart?
Are you using your words to bring life and encouragement or are you using your words to bring death and criticism?
Now, my guess is that you will tend to grade yourself higher than you probably should. You see, we tend to grade our actions based on our intentions instead of the impact of our words and actions.
So try this - - look at your phone and review the last dozen texts or so that you sent. Are they mostly positive or negative? Complaints and commands or encouragement and life? Ask the people closest to you if they think you tend to speak more blessing or cursing.
Now, the goal here is not simply to curb your tongue, but to reveal what’s going on in your heart. And so with that, I want to challenge you in three areas in regard to your mouth.
- Do EVERYTHING without complaining or arguing (Philippians 2:14). Over the next several weeks, I dare you to try to take complaining and arguing completely out of your language.
- Speak blessings not curses to those that God puts into your path. Start with those that are closest to you like friends and family and then let it carry over to coworkers and neighbors. I do hope you realize that most people will either live up to your blessings or live down to your curses.
- Watch how you talk to yourself. Much of our problems come down to our negative self-talk. Quit talking to yourself so negatively! In fact, you probably need to stop listening to yourself so much and start talking to yourself more. Tell yourself promises that line up with the Word of God and watch God begin to transform your mind.
You see, the tongue is a powerful instrument for sure. And as you continue to deepen your relationship with Jesus this year, may he transform you from the inside out and may the fruit of that transformation show up in the way that you talk to yourselves and the way that you talk to one another.