Have you ever said something that you regretted? Do you struggle with speaking in anger? Do you use cutting words to wound? Are you skilled at winning any and all arguments? Do you avoid awkward silence by filling them with witty phrases, random conversation starters, or jokes? Or how about this: what does your inner voice sound like? Is it harsh, critical, and unforgiving? Is it judgmental? If you answered 'yes' to any of those questions, you are not alone. In my past, the way I wielded my words have cost me relationships. I have witnessed how biting tongues have the potential to break up families. I have seen up close how "rash words are like sword thrusts" (Proverbs 12:18). I better understand why the Word of God calls believers to use words to build others up (Ephesians 4:29) because I have seen how they can deeply abuse people. I would venture to say the majority of us have felt the painful sting of a harsh word at some point in our lives. Maybe it was in the form of gossip or slander. Maybe it was more direct from a trusted friend or family member. Words are powerful weapons that can easily be used carelessly to the detriment of self and others. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21a). Why is that? It was God's design to make words powerful and important. James 1:18 says, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures". Did you get that? Our salvation is brought forth by the Word of Truth! This echoes Romans 10:17 that says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ". These verses completely dismantle the popular quote "Preach the gospel at all times – use words if necessary" (which is incorrectly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, by the way). You see, when it comes to proclaiming the gospel, real words are always necessary. Sure, our lives should align with the words, but silent actions are inadequate replacements for the Word of God and the message of the gospel. This is also why we treasure our holy text – it is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12), which means it brings comfort and conviction, nourishment and growth, and judgment to the unredeemed. As we study His Word, the Spirit renews our minds and transforms us more and more into Christlikeness (Romans 12:2). That's powerful! The words that come out of our mouths are powerful and important, too. Scripture attributes a lot to our words; in fact, the entire third chapter of James uses the tongue as the primary representation for the whole of human depravity! This is because words are reliable indicators of the condition of one's heart. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34b, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". When we consider the words that come out of our mouths and the mouths of those around us (even our children!), we can clearly see that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The sin of speech is a universal problem – James 3:8 says, "No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." I think of all the incredible advancements made possible by human intellect:
- Mankind has ventured to the moon;
- Mankind has developed techniques to allow men and women to choose the gender of their babies with no genetic abnormalities prior to implantation in the womb.
- Mankind has invented a machine (the ECMO) that can mimic a human lung and sustain life – a machine that has the ability to add oxygen to blood while removing carbon dioxide!