The power of words
By Ysrael De la Cruz
“You have heard the saying sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” This is not true. Tell this to the kid who is being bullied; many who have committed suicide because how someone’s words made them feel. The wisest king in the Bible recognized the power of words. Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
He who guards his mouth protects his life, but the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin. Proverbs 13:3
I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence. Psalm 39:1
Jesus said that words will justify you or condemn you at judgment day. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt.12:36-37
James said that the tongue could render your testimony and your religion worthless. James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
The word “tongue” (glossa: speech, languages,)
Glossary: an alphabetical list of terms or words found in or relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect, with explanations; a brief dictionary.
James has a lot more to say regarding the power of words and in chapter 3 he warned those in the church who may want to become teachers. James 3:1-12
Teachers in the church will be judged more strictly. (teachers will be judged greater than those who don’t teach)
-We all (James included himself; he, a teacher and leader of the church) stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble (never at fault) in what he/she says such person is perfect able to bridle their whole body. (v.2)
James is so right; we all stumble in our speech with others. How often do we get in trouble because of our words or speech with our spouses, kids, friends, etc.? Some of us may stumble more than others, but James’ point is that we all stumble in some ways in what we say.
Three illustrations to help us see the power of the tongue, the power of words.
-Bits into the mouth of horses to control the animal. (3)
-Small ruder that controls the large ships. (v.4)
The tongue is a small part of the body, but it can boast great things.
-a small fire can set on fire a huge forest. (v.6)
The tongue, even though is small among the members of the body, has the capacity to control the whole body (like the bridle controls the horse and the rudder controls the ships) or destroy it. (just like a mall fire let loose in a forest)
The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the whole person, sets the whole course of life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell. (v.6)
It does have the power of life and death, of building and destroying; of justification or condemnation.
James claims that no one can tame the tongue (vv.7-8) All kinds of animals can be subdued, tamed, but not the tongue. This is referring back to what he said earlier about we all stumble in many ways in what we say. If we could tame the tongue, apologies would disappear; there will never be misunderstanding among people or miscommunication; we would not stumble in what we say. This thing is restless. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. (v.8)
(v.9) We use it to bless God and to curse people who are made in the image of God.
From the same mouth come both blessings and cursing. This ought not to be my brothers. This should not be
(v.12) Can a fig tree produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Rhetorical question (NO)
Neither can salt water spring produce fresh water? NO
A tree is known by the fruit it produces.
What kind of fruit are you producing? What spring of water are you? fresh or salty?
I believe James had in mind the words of Jesus when he taught about knowing the tree by the fruit it produces. Luke 6:43-45
3“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
The words we speak reflect what is inside our hearts. Out of the overflowing of the heart, the mouth speaks. What are we storing up in our hearts? Whatever it may be, good or bad will come out in our speech.
Do you want to store good things in your heart? Store up the word of God in your heart.
Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col.3:16
We can bridle our tongue by filling our hearts with God’s word, then we will speak life and not death, we will build up each other and not tear each down.