“So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest.”
The Faith We Profess
Do you ever find yourself exiting a social situation, reflecting to yourself and wondering, Did I really just say that? No doubt we’ve all sat in the aftermath of a conversation, full of regret for the words we chose to say, wishing we could just take them back. It’s no wonder that James compares our reckless words to forest fires, our words burning others and ourselves.
Just two chapters ago, James told us, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…” (James 1:19). He felt this idea so strongly that he brought it back around for this third chapter. But this notion is undoubtedly so much easier for James to say than it is for us to do. So, what do we do so that our words can fall in line with the faith we profess?
Healing or Wounding?
James goes a bit further to say that with our tongues we speak nice things to God and about God, but that we also proceed to spew hateful things to others and about others. But what if we didn’t compartmentalize our words in such a way? What if all our efforts were made in an effort to bless God, rather than just some of them? What if we sought to bless others with all that we do and say?
To bless another person means more than just sharing compliments and sweet nothings; it means building one another up and speaking the truth in love. These are words that bless the Lord in action, just one small way we allow our faith to impact our works. We have the power to heal others with our words, rather than to inflict further wounds.
Words of Refreshment
When we find ourselves in situations where our thoughts—and that words that follow—are not honoring to the Lord or to those around us, He faithfully provides a means of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). But it’s up to us to choose that route. It requires dying to self… and that’s just so hard to do.
The good news is that sanctification is a journey, and we’re all taking steps towards Christlikeness together. It’s takes a whole lot of practice and humility to be able to fall into the “slow to speak” category. But the Lord is with us, and His Spirit is guiding us in wisdom, kindness, and love towards Himself and others in our speech. Let’s have less “Did I really just say that?” and more “Did the Lord really just say that through me?” Let’s be quicker to offer words of refreshment rather than the kind that start fires.
How can you start taking steps towards healing and refreshing others through your words? Ask the Lord to guide you as you navigate tricky conversations and situations in your life. In what areas could you use a little practice in prudence?