Words. Speaking. Talking. Language. Communication. The ability to verbally express ourselves is a wonderful thing. We can talk to our friends and family, tell others about Christ, buy and sell at the store, and say funny things to make others laugh.
The tongue is a powerful part of our body. It can have a tremendous impact on another person—positively or negatively. The tongue is such a small muscle, but it is such a strong force that our words can build other up or cut someone to the heart.
I used to think that words did not make affect people. If someone said something hurtful to me, I would just blow it off. As the saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” It is not true. Words do hurt. They can change relationships dramatically. We can apologize for what we say, but we can never take back what comes out of our mouth.
In James 3:3-12 we learn about the power of the tongue:
“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 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! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
From this passage we can see the impact that the tongue has on others. It may be a small part, but like a forest fire, our words can take off and become an uncontrollable blaze. How often does a little gossip grow into a malicious rumor that hurt someone? Or how many times have we cut someone else down in front of a group of people?
Recently, I have seen the effects of the words that people speak and write. When someone tells you that you do a good job at something, doesn’t it give you more motivation to do better? A hand written note from a friend or a verbal affirmation from a co-worker can make a significant impact that the sender of the message may never realize.
All of this has made me step back and examine what I say. Am I building others up or tearing them down? Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Words are powerful. What we say has consequences. Think before speaking. Build up others.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” —James 1:19