“Sticks and stones may brake my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Sometimes, the words we mean to say are not the words that come out of our mouth. Feel free to check Facebook and Twitter for a litany of homonyms that will make you laugh and blush. (My favorites is a girl who tweets that men can get “maturity” leave… Because when a man becomes a dad, he needs to mature a lot.)
Certainly unintentional words can get us into trouble. But perhaps we should be more concerned with intentional words. Words matter. They just do. “Sticks and stones” may do physical harm, but words can crush a spirit.
While there are explicit references to the power of speech throughout the Bible, James speaks on this danger the most. As a matter of fact, James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religious is useless and he deceives himself.” This is a convicting verse to read. Our faith is not dependent on what we say, but what we say gives convincing evidence of our faith (or lack thereof).
Specifically in James 3:1-12, we find three powerful truths about our tongue.
- What we say reflects who we are. Notice this doesn’t say “what we claim reflects who we are.” Our content can be deceiving. Our words are not. Luke 6:45 tells us that the “mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” If you want to know what someone values, check their Facebook page. It many not be accurate content, but it is an accurate display of a person’s passions.
- The power of words is undeniable. In James 3:6, James tells us that the tongue is “set on fire by hell.” Proverbs 18:21 claims that “life and death are in the power of the tongue….” The things we say can have a terrible effect on a person emotionally and spiritually. On the flip side, our encouraging words have great power to lift someone up and give them hope. Remember that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
- The biggest sin of our tongue is hypocrisy. “Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way” (James 3:10). There is danger in the mindset of “pray a prayer” salvation. Too many people claim Jesus with their lips, but don’t follow Him with their lives. There are a great deal of these hypocrites that need to pay careful attention to James 1:26 and its warnings about useless religion.
Faith in Jesus Christ requires accepting Jesus as two things: Savior and Lord. Many people have “prayed a prayer” even confessing their sins and asking God to be their Savior and forgive them. It is easy to cry out to Jesus as Savior with our lips. But there are a good many people who have never accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives, submitting to follow wherever He calls them. There is both praise and cursing from their lives.
Pay close attention to the words you speak. Are they honestly reflecting a Christ honoring life? Do you recognize the power of good and evil in those words. And does your life reflect the faith you profess with your lips. James says that no man can tame the tongue. Will you submit to let God tame it for you?