This passage of scripture is one that changed the direction of my life not long after I became a Christian. I had no idea of the power that my words could carry. I was sitting at the lunch table with a group of friends (who were not Christians). I was very open about going to church and that I had become a Christian, yet my language was terrible. I talked about others in a very vulgar way. Then one day my friend Ethan looked at me and said that I talk about church all the time but it was clear that I was really no different than them. His basis was on the things that were coming out of my mouth.
Now this passage is not just about cursing. It is about understanding the power that something as small as your tongue can have. James is very straight forward with this and is not afraid to step on any toes. He says that the tongue is a fire and a world of unrighteousness, and that it stains the whole body and can set the entire course of our lives on fire.
Our words and the things we change have that kind of power because words can be weapons. When they are put into the form of gossip, or purposeful hate, or shaming comments, suddenly the words hurt. We try to cover it up saying that we didn’t mean it, or that it was a joke. But the reality is that words don’t hurt less just because we might not mean it or we were just kidding.
James talks about our tongue staining our body and changing the course of our lives, which seems a little confusing. But what he is saying is that the things that come out are a direct reflection of what is inside. So if we are constantly using belittling, reckless, shaming, hurtful words, chances are that we might be a belittling, reckless, shaming, hurtful person. And it makes so much sense that our words can shape our lives because we have all said something and immediately wished that we could take it back. We knew in that moment that those simple words changed everything about a relationship, or friendship, or situation.
So when we think of our words, we must heed James’ warnings, and understand the power that they hold. But remember they are not just powerful in the sense of destruction. Your words have power to be a force for the gospel, and building others up, and encouraging, and bringing hope to the darkness.
By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate