Human beings have been a warring bunch since the dawn of history, fighting over territory, treasure, religion, and tribal connections. We may consider ourselves more civilized than those who took clubs to each others’ heads, but we still fight, don’t we? Americans are divided and the issues that separate us are not imaginary. The fact that the media and internet offers a megaphone to every voice who wants one, regardless of competence or motivation, only complicates communication. I have all but given up on watching news channels. Adults sit at tables and shout at each other endlessly, saying the same things for days. Facebook trolls post their opinions and gleefully watch their thread explode! It is easy to conclude that the only way to break through the noise is to express your point in the most offensive way to attract the most attention.
Too many words are used like grenades. If we disagree with another, instead of trying to understand the point, give context to his issues, it is so much easier to blow him away by declaring – “You’re an idiot!” If we find ourselves struggling with competing ideas, we often slip into absolutes saying, “Well, I know the TRUTH!” Even our presidential candidates are feeding the fire hurling words at each other that are incendiary – racist, bigot, liar, crook, fool.
Christian, we need to hear the counsel of the Lord about our words. James urges us to make our words as refreshing as a fresh water spring! “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. … With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? … You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (James 3:3-12, The Message)
How are using the gift of language, Christian?
Words can pull people together by bringing focus to mutual efforts. Ever heard a good leader use words to create a vision that moves a church, a town, a nation? It’s amazing!
Words can soothe a broken heart! “I care about you.” “We can do this.” Is there any phrase more powerful than a sincere “I love you!”?
Words can inflame fury! Words spat out in harsh tones of anger, designed to wound and kill, can hurt more than the cut of a knife. Hateful words that demean another, that criticize, that unfairly judge; destroy lives.
Are your words healing or hurting?
Are your words building up or tearing down?
Are your words encouraging or discouraging?
Are your words refreshing or exhausting?
Gentleness, listening, understanding does not harm ‘the truth.’ Let’s not fall into fear that insists, “If you do not defend this, then the truth will be forgotten.” We can hang onto convictions, know what is right and wrong, without needing to go to war with everyone that thinks differently.
So, listen to how you talk. If you discover that you are using foul, discouraging, or faithless words, pray for the Spirit to wash your heart and mind. We do not have to settle for ‘nice’ words that disguise the content of our hearts and minds with words that are purposefully bland! Instead, fill up your mind with God’s Word – hopeful, faithful, resting on Him. When the source of the spring is cleaned, the overflow is pure! Yes, pray that the language you use reveals the life of the Spirit in you!
Here is a word from the Word to ponder today – “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” (Ephesians 4:29-31, NLT)
Lord, my prayer today is that “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NIV)