Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Power of Words

If there is one passage in the Bible that always convicts me when I read it, it's the part in James 3 that talks about taming the tongue. That passage never fails to get me. The Bible says that God's Word is like a double-edged sword, cutting through flesh and muscle straight to the bone, and that's exactly what James 3 does to me every time I read it.

James 3:5-6 says, "... the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person..." The reason that hits me hard is because I have always been guilty of speaking before thinking. I tend to say things I don't mean and things I regret because I get angry. I get angry and I forget to think about what I say before I say it.

Controlling my tongue is hard because when I get mad, I want to speak my mind and say what I think. But that's almost never a good idea. Words have so much power. With words, we can build each other up and tear each other down. We can praise our heavenly King, and curse other men, who are made in His image. We can spread the Gospel and spread slander and gossip. We can worship Jesus and we can curse Him.

It truly is amazing the impact we can have on people with our words. I have used my tongue to encourage people and it feels so good when I do, but I've also learned you can quickly lose friends with your tongue, too. I have wounded many friends and lost a few because of a short temper or a rude comment. I wish I had learned by now to just hold my tongue when I'm angry. I have hurt so many friends because I spoke out of anger. And if there was a way I could make it up to everyone I have hurt with my tongue, I would. But what is so difficult is that you can always ask for forgiveness and take back what you said, but the fact you said it still stands. Proverbs 12:18 wisely states, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." And what bites is that you can rarely heal someone with your tongue once you've cut them with it. They may forgive, but  it can be harder to forget.

The good news is that pleasant words are just as hard to forget. I'm sure you can think back to a time when someone spoke a strong word of encouragement to you. Those words stick with you. Proverbs says that "pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." And it's my goal to adopt a tongue of encouragement and of kindness, a tongue of pleasant words and of honey. I want to stop using words that are mean, harsh, and rude, and to hold my tongue when I am mad. I want to be a man of wisdom, to use words with restraint, to think before I speak, and to speak with kindness and not with malice. I desire to please God with my words and to glorify Him with my lips in all of my conversations. I want to be known as an encourager and a peacemaker, and to build people up with my tongue instead of tearing them down.

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." ~James 1:19-20

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