Read James 3:1-12
Who was it that came up with the old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? They must have lived in a different world than you and me! OK, I will give to them that the little ditty sounds reasonable. I mean, sticks and stones are hard. When they hit the body, they hurt. Meanwhile, words don’t require visible bandages or casts. Still, the pain is just as real…and typically lasts longer. My guess is the one who coined the phrase was trying in vain to convince himself/herself.
Nearly 2000 years ago, James, the half-brother of Jesus, identified the power of our words. Like a small bit directing a large horse or a small rudder steering a huge ship, the seemingly insignificant words we express have an immense impact. Like a tiny careless match that results in a huge fire, our words have the potential of creating vast devastation. But that is just the tip of our destructive verbal iceberg. Unfortunately, our words often demonstrate incredible inconsistency. Sunday morning we may be heard while sitting in a church service as we offer words of praise to our Creator. Meanwhile, Friday afternoon we may be heard while sitting on a clogged interstate as we curse the very ones created in His image.
The problem is universal. In all likelihood, you have been both the person who has been injured by words and the one who has injured with words.
Is the problem resolvable? The only solution for past injuries is forgiveness and attempts at reconciliation. And the only way to avoid being the cause of future verbal injury? Well, James describes it as a human impossibility. “No man can tame the tongue,” he says. (v. 8a) But, what is impossible for man is possible with God. As His children submit to the powerful Spirit of God in their lives, the fruit of the Spirit is borne in the form of fruit like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23)
Rather than pain, my preference is that fruit would characterize the outcome of the words I say. I’m sure that is your preference too. We must walk in the Spirit’s control.