PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• It’s safe to assume, whether you know me or not, that I love words. I really do. My grandmother taught me to read when I was three-years-old, and coupled with my mom’s influence—I have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with words. Whether I am writing them or reading them, I respect their power. But perhaps the most dangerous way we use words is when we speak them.
In the book of James, he spends an inordinate amount of time on the power of the tongue. James 3:1-12 discusses the power of our tongues, and in verse 5, it says, “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!” (ESV). Then, when we hop down to verse 10, it is written, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
As Christians, our language matters. The words we speak should sound different than the words spoken by the world. They should be laced with the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—Galatians 5:22-23).
I get it. Tempers flare. Stressful situations happen. Having a night of sleep interrupted when you step in the dog’s midnight accident (which may or may not have, but really did happen)—these things may trigger some unkind and unfruitful words. And when those situations happen, the best idea comes down to this: Just shut up.
Here’s a litmus test: if the words you’re tempted to say could freely be spoken in church, in front of your pastor, or even if you were face-to-face with Jesus Himself… go for it! When they aren’t words you’d be comfortable speaking in those situations, maybe it’s better to be quiet.
As many Southern mamas have said, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nuthin’ at all.” After all, as another favorite Southern colloquial saying goes, “You draw more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Moreover, when we speak in a way that makes us sound just as an unbeliever does, how have we distinguished ourselves as “set apart?” We are called to shine our light for Jesus but profanity, gossip, judgmental words, slander, and other misuses of words dim our light.
So be aware of the power of your words. They matter. And in my opinion, some of the most frightening words Jesus ever spoke were, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV). That terrifies me.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the power of His Word. Thank Him that He ordained our Bible to speak to us and teach us. Ask the Holy Spirit to guard your tongue and to help you speak words that reflect the love of Jesus and the Fruit of His Spirit.