What you say (and do) defines you as a person. It’s the only way others can see what kind of person you are. God can see our hearts but our words and actions are what are visible to others. How many times have we heard this quoted when harsh words are said: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older when I realized that this quote, I had heard over and over, was just the opposite of what it meant. Some words can be the most painful thing to hear. However, there are also words that can heal, mend, and show grace. What we say to another person, no matter how small, is powerful. It’s powerful because first of all, it can affect someone in ways we may never realize. It’s also powerful because it defines the kind of person we are. Our identity is in Christ once we accept Him as a Savior. If our words are not what Christ would say to others, how can we call ourselves Christians?
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire…” – James 3: 4-6
Small, but powerful, that’s what the Bible says about the words we speak. The reason the Bible may have emphasized the word “small” is probably because we’re good at overlooking the small things. We blame the captain, the storm, the ship itself when we don’t get where we want to, when the problem is the tiny rudder. The rudder is underneath the ship and no one really notices it. Even though its so small, it’s importance in getting the ship where it needs to go, is crucial. The Bible contrasts the word “small” with “great”. One word alone may seem insignificant, but the effect of that word may be the complete opposite.
When these “great” situations turn out to be bad, we may blame the captain (which should be God directing us), but our words may be saying yes to gossiping, yes to getting into situations that can lead us into making horrible decisions, yes to making promises we know we aren’t going to keep, or yes to wasting our day instead of spending the day the way God planned. I’m guilty of all these things.
We may also blame the storm. Storms may be friends that say hurtful things and our words may respond in anger instead of understanding where they may be coming from. Storms may be things life throws at you on a busy day and you decide to be rude to the lady at Starbucks and the person in your way as you walk out the door. Storms may also be those painful situations where it’s easy to lash out because you may have every right to in the world’s eyes but it may be a moment where God is giving you the ability to show grace, even though it’s painful to do so.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” – James 1:26
Our beliefs are worthless if we can’t control our words. Sometimes as Christians we emphasize the needs for our actions to speak louder than our words, in order for others to know the gospel. I believe it’s just as important to have our words match our actions. We may act in love but if our words are not loving, we are hypocrites. There may be times where we help another person out and are nice to their face but the second they’re gone we say things behind their back or even think thoughts about that them that are rude and disrespectful. That’s not how we, as Christians, are supposed to behave.
In the end, everything comes down to what Jesus did for us on the cross. He’s the primary example of what it means to love in words and deed. The reason He was able to overcome the obstacles we face is because He knew the source of the problem: the heart. Our hearts are evil to the core, if we don’t accept that truth, the change God wants to see in us, won’t happen.
The only way we can fix this is by allowing God to change our hearts. Spending time with God DAILY in prayer (and by prayer, I don’t mean the “Keep my family safe and give me a good day” kind of prayer). It has to be real, it has to come from your heart – that’s full of messed up thoughts and evil desires. God has to see the real you in your prayers. Once we open up to God, we see more clearly the state of our heart and we can slowly notice the moments when we say something that isn’t what God would want us to say. It’s a slow process but it’s not impossible. Jesus spent hours with God, staying away from the crowd and his disciples; He was able to let God know what was on His heart. My example is Jesus. He said with His words that He loved me so much. He not only said that, but He followed through with His words by dying in my place for my sins. The words and promises we make to others should be that powerful. We are all called to love one another. The words we say in love, should be followed by actions in love, from a heart that is aligned with God’s love.