Words have the power to destroy. James 3:1-12 gives us understanding of the power of words to influence people and the spiritual atmosphere around us. The scripture says our words can be so destructive as to cause great forest fires, corrupt our bodies and set our lives on fire. Wow! That is power….power to destroy! Our words can destroy hope, trust, unity and peace. They destroy hope by sabotaging the hope of glory we have in the good news gospel. They destroy trust by speaking publicly those things that should be held in confidence. They destroy unity by speaking strife and division in the church. They destroy peace by bringing doubt and anxiety into the lives of people around us.
But there is good news…..we have a choice in the words we speak…..and that choice is found in James’ depiction of two wells: a fresh well and a bitter well; the well of the heart. The heart is the decision station of life; the intersection of soul and spirit.
Patterns of speech give insight into the attitude of our hearts. Negative patterns of speech reveal negative attitudes of the heart. Positive patterns of speech reveal an optimistic outlook on life undergirded by grace based attitudes of the heart. Let’s face it. We would much rather hang around with people who speak words of life and encouragement than words of death and destruction. I find that I can handle negative people only so long, then I try to avoid them….even if they are friends!!! Just because you’re a believer in Jesus and or a leader in the body of Christ does not guarantee you draw your words from a fresh well.
Out of the overflow of our hearts we choose the words we speak. (Luke 6:45) The inner transformation from bitter water to fresh water is in the transformation to a good and noble heart. No matter how bad life circumstances may be, we can still choose to develop a good and noble heart (see Luke 8:15) that brings forth words like fresh water. We gain a good and noble heart as we embrace the gospel of grace and peace rather than a gospel of wrath and judgment. We gain a good and noble heart by cultivating our soul with the good news of Jesus’ victory over hell and the grave. We transform the heart by embracing the unconditional love of the Father. From this fresh well of the good and noble heart we terminate the words of destruction and germinate the words of delight. We infuse life in those around us and into the spiritual climate of our lives.Transform your heart and you will transform your words from destroying to delighting. Transform your heart and your words will no longer start fires or corrupt your life. Jesus said he came to bring good news. So should you!!
Our words carry power. People often associate power with human size and strength, electrical voltage, big trucks, jet airplanes, and the suit sitting in the corner office. However, there is dimension of power that transcends those traditional perspectives. It is the power of our words. The Apostle James expounds on the power of words by comparing the tongue to a bridle that turns a horse, a rudder that steers a ship, and a spark that ignites a forest fire (James 3:1-12). Wow! That small physical attribute is really an instrument of power!
As leaders we must consider the influence of words in the spiritual and human atmosphere. There are three distinct powers of our words revealed by James’ writing. The first, to be addressed in this blog, is the power to DIRECT. James says that those who use words to teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). People will judge the words of a teacher more strictly than those who do not teach. It is the power of the pulpit. When you speak in group of 5 people or 500 people you bring immediate attention to the words you speak. People analyze your words, compare your words to your behavior, and receive your words as one speaking with a degree of authority.
Gifted speakers can direct nations. We have good and bad examples of word power in people like President Obama who evoked the mantra of ‘hope and change’ carrying this man with little leadership experience to the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. People liked what he SAID! Winston Churchill, a former prime minister of the UK, invoked courage and strength to their nation in World War II as Germany bombed London on a daily basis. He said ‘we will never give up…we will never give up!’ People believed his words! Adolph Hitler turned the people of Germany toward believing in a ‘master race’ leading them to war against much of Europe and attempted annihilation of Jewish race. The nation was directed by his words. These are but a few poignant examples of the power of words to direct people, direct nations, and influence the spiritual atmosphere around them.
You may not lead a nation but you influence people. Whether it’s 5 or 500 you have word power!!! You have the power to bring words of grace and peace, spirit and truth, life and abundance. On the contrary, you have power to bring legalism and wrath, unholy spirits and false teaching, death and poverty. As you embrace the gospel of grace and peace through Jesus you will bring more words of life and less words of death. Words spoken with little forethought or consideration of their power can still direct those around you. Consider your words. Do they reflect the gospel of grace and peace? Do they bring life and hope to the people you lead? Do they speak life and abundance into the spiritual atmosphere? Do they direct people to worship in spirit and in truth? You have the power to DIRECT………the power of the tongue to turn people toward good news or bad news. Turn them toward the good news gospel!