“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 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. 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! 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater? 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
I recall the first time I heard the famous saying: "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." At one point in my life, I believed this saying to be true, until I came face-to-face with unkind words. When I had my first experience with unkind words, it felt as though it hurt worse than any stick or stone could.
As I continued to mature, I realized one of the reasons was because Words of Affirmation is my number one love language. If you are not familiar with the Love Languages, then I encourage you to look into them. Words of Affirmation as my number one means I take words with all the weight they carry. The positive of Words of Affirmation is I am continually looking for ways to speak life, encouragement, and joy into people's lives. The negative of Words of Affirmation is when people insult me, I take it as if a giant stick or stone have hit me!
If we were all honest, the words people say influence us. For some, it could be the words of any person that hit us hard. For others, it could be the words of someone near and dear to us. Even those who walk around with the "tough skin" can be subjected to the pain of unkind words when they are the right words.
Today's passage helps shed some light on why words seem to sting the way they do.
Jesus was intentional with His words, and always reminded people of the importance of the way words ought to be used. He told the people who followed Him, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean" (Matthew 15:18). Jesus regarded words as a direct revelation or reflection of who a person is. He also said in Matthew 12:37, "... for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Even when Jesus challenged the actions of people, He did it in a way that addressed the behavior but never belittled the person. Jesus had constant mindfulness of His words, and the way He used them.
Thankfully, there is far more grace than there are bad words we can say. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:20, "... where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." What an incredible and undeserved reality. While it is freeing to know every word we let out can have been forgiven by Christ and met with grace, it does not let us off the hook for saying whatever it is we desire.
For those of us who are following Jesus, our hearts should reflect His heart. As we continually follow Jesus, we become more like Him (1 John 3). We can study and learn from the words Jesus said and allow those words to shape our hearts and mold us.
Our challenge should be to seek intentionality with our words and to be conscious of how we use them. Whether we desire to encourage someone or address something important, the words we use could make or break the way the conversation unfolds, or even the way the relationship goes. Let us speak our words in a way we reflect Christ, and by reflecting Him, we can give people a chance to hear the words He has for them.
How do you feel you are using the power of your words?
Where in your life can you use your words to encourage someone, or even lovingly address a potential issue?
Spend some time looking at the words of Jesus, and allow those words to become a part of your words to others.
Father, thank you for allowing me the chance to speak Your words into the lives of those around me. I pray You continually teach me awareness of my words, and reveal any moments where my words do not reflect You. Thank you for grace when my words fall short. Let Your words be my words. I love You Father, and pray all of this in Your holy name, Amen.
PC3 writer Davy Nance wrote today’s devotional.