"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Remember that from childhood? It was what you'd say when someone called you a "meanie," "stinky," or said they didn't want to play with you. But didn't their words still hurt?
The same is true today. We are bombarded by the world daily with negativity. Look at the magazines in the check-out line at the grocery store, or listen to the commercials on the radio and television. From every direction, the world is trying to get to us. Just because we are grown and aren't on the playground anymore doesn't mean we are free from the name-calling and hurt those words bring.
It's up to us how we use our words, but it's not always easy. So how do we speak words of positivity, encouragement, and most importantly, words that show others Jesus love?
Let's start by taking a look at how James talks about our speech. He gives us so many strong illustrations of the power our tongues have: bit, a rudder, a fire, a fountain and more.
1. Our words have the power to turn.
I grew up riding horses, and an important part of riding is understanding how to get the horse to move. Enter: the bit. The bit is a metal part that goes in the horses mouth. It is a small object compared to the horse, yet it is the tool a rider uses to move the horse in a desired direction.
Another childhood memory is riding around in a paddle-boat (picture below). Just like a large boat, ours had a rudder. This is a flat piece attached vertically to the stern (or back) of the boat for steering. Just like the bit, it is so much smaller than the object it is designed to direct.
Both of these illustrations relate to the size of our tongue relative to our body. For being such small part, it has the power to turn us in one direction or the other. With our words, we can either speak wisely or foolishly.
2. Our words have the power to impact.
The tongue itself is neutral. It can be used either in positive or negative ways. And James gives us the illustration of a fire to help us remember. A fire can keep us war while camping or roasting marsh-mellows, positives. However, a fire can also burn down our houses or the forests, negatives. In the same way, our words can either build up or tear down.
3. Our words have the power to reflect.
Whatever is inside, will come to the outside. Saltwater cannot flow from a fresh spring, so our speech flows from our innermost being. Our words are an outward reflection of our inward person.
A fig tree can only produce figs. By this reasoning, if we possess the worldly kind of wisdom, the "fruit" of our life will be "disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:16). BUT if a person has the kind of wisdom that only does from above, the "fruit" will be "pure, peace-loving, and considerate" (James 3:17).
So How Do I Speak Words of Life?
Well, where is your affection and intention? Because the solution is where those are set.
Our affections originate with God. "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). As we grow closer to God, the Holy Spirit stirs our affections for Jesus. Which will let our intentions to align with Him, leading us to think on "whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" (Philippians 4:8).
What we take in, will eventually be what comes back out.
We reap what we sow. If we sow kindness, we'll reap kindness. If we sow malice, we'll reap malice.
What can you do today to change your words? Can I suggest digging into God's word? the Bible is the primary way God renews our hearts and minds, from the inside out. I also like to listen to worship music. I always have some noise in the background, usually the television. But I have been working on turning off the T.V. and playing worship music. Because I have noticed that even if I am not focused on it, it still makes its way into my thoughts. And isn't that so much better than the junk on T.V.?
Jesus lover, wife, momma, teacher, and hopeful writer.