Words are essential to life. They protect from harm (Gen. 2:16-17); they bind to a course of action (Psalm 116:14,18); they are a tool of war (1 Samuel 17:8-10); they are a means of encouragement (Joshua 1:6,9,18); when coming from God, they have creative power (Gen. 1:3,6,9,11,14, etc.) and destructive power (Matt. 25:41). Jesus gave clear teaching on the use of the tongue (Matt. 5:37“yes be yes”) and its power to harm (Matthew 5:21-22). A major theme in the epistle of James deals with the tongue and its resistance to being tamed (James 3:1-12).
The difficulty present in making sure we speak well and wisely is no excuse for not doing our best in that area. In fact, quite the opposite; James, who for 12 verses goes on at length about how discouraging the whole issue is, inserts a helpful jewel of truth which instructs us how we may have success in directing our speech. James 3:13,17:
Who is wise and understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. HCSB
If we are to please God by speaking wisely and well, we must speak from a solid foundation of godly wisdom. That means we must be well-acquainted with God’s Word, works and ways in order to have a proper knowledge base that we can then apply to life situations.
Four truths about the exercise of wise speaking found in this passage:
A. Blessing others brings blessing v.14
Words carry weight, are main source of influence; not “name it and claim it” philosophy, “word-faith movement”.
“Words are containers, and each word we speak is filled with something. Words are containers, and each word we speak is filled with something. Words have power! God created the physical world with the spoken word. And we create the world around us with the words we speak. Often, you can walk into a home or even a room and know the kind of words that have just been spoken. You can “detect” them in the atmosphere. Just as we can negatively charge the atmosphere with our words, we can also positively charge the atmosphere.” Kenneth & Lynette Hagin
We aren’t God or little gods; our words do not have creative power; they do have the ability to influence if the hearer is open and receptive. In conversation there are at least two hearers: the one speaking and one(s) being spoken to. When we speak words of genuine blessing to a believer, blessing impacts the speaker also.
If the mouth of a man bringeth forth fruit – namely, the fruit of wholesome doctrine, of right guidance, of comforting exhortation, of peace-bringing consolation for others – this fruit is also to his own advantage, he richly enjoys the good which flows out of his own mouth, the blessing he bestows is also a blessing for himself. K&D
What we speak and way we speak influences our outlook as it does that of others. Speech enhances the direction thoughts and mood are already heading. Negative thinking given outlet in speech leads to more negative thinking. Same for positive. And vice versa – positive speech can encourage change of direction in thinking from negative to positive. Foundational reason why average support group fails to improve perceived well-being of individuals long-term: too little spoken from God’s perspective and too much from personal.
B. Words can hurt or heal v.18
Proper speech is to “always be gracious, seasoned with salt”. Col 4:6
Larousse Gastronomique states that “to season and to flavour are not the same thing”, insisting that seasoning includes salt being added to a preparation. Salt may be used to draw out water, or to magnify a natural flavor of a food making it richer or more delicate. Kosher salt (a coarser-grained salt) rubbed meat tenderizes it and improves the flavor.from Wikipedia
Seasoning food requires thought, effort and time; same is true of speech. Hasty, rash, reckless (thoughtless) speech is frequently hurtful speech. For example:
“Wonders why her 2 sisters dont talk to her anymore? Like to know what “I” did why even bother to have them on my list if they dont even bother with me. Oh and I guess I know who my real sister is” …”I am about to lose my cool; I did alot for a certain someone and they cant tell me if I did anything wrong and this other person cant even say 1 thing to me since I added them, and at their daughters wedding she gave me a cold shoulder, I will be deleting alot of people off my list tommrow. I know who my true family and friends are.” Facebook
Speech that heals
builds up someone in need, gives grace to those who hear Eph. 4:29
edify – encourage development of Christian character (godliness) in other person
giving grace – providing a true benefit
teaches and admonishes (warn, put on guard, counsel or advise) in wisdom Col. 3:16
communicating out of the rich store of “the word of Christ” in us
broad and deep understanding of Christian/biblical doctrine
comforts those in affliction 2 Cor. 1:4
passing along to others the comfort God has given to us
C. Justice (and society) depends on truth v.22
Truth and truthful communication is essential to the health and longevity of any type of institution. Nothing lasting of value can be founded on deception be it home, church, or civic in nature.
Any time our criminal justice system ensures that the truth-telling function of our system is alive and viable, it is a cause for celebration for all citizens. …Simply put, our system of justice depends on truth-telling. Without that rigor, without that pressure, without that compunction to tell the truth, our system of justice will die. …If truth is a pillar of our system of justice, then not telling the truth dramatically damages the structural support of that same system of justice. Mike Cox, Michigan Attorney General, 07/12/07
There’s more than one way to tell the truth – according to Paul, must be moderated by love: Eph. 4:15
does not mean pulling punches, holding back portions of the truth
does mean must be communicated gently, persuasively, with humility, out of a genuine concern for the welfare of their soul, and a desire to do good (not to look good)
“The truth may be as medicine to the person who needs it, but love is the sugar that, added to the medicine, makes it palatable. Remember Mary Poppins’ prescription: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.””Constable
contra Fred Phelps – he’s right, there will be no homosexuals in heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10) BUT it’s a truth conveyed in hate, not love.
truthful speech must be
overflow of truthful character
accompanied by truthful/honest dealings
in order to qualify as something that delights God
D. A good word overcomes depression v.25
two significant causes/contributors to depression: guilt and anxious fear. Good words can promote joy, the opposite of depression.
guilt: see Psalm 32:1-5
real or imagined
real because of unconfessed/unaddressed sin
imagined: real feelings but no basis in fact; can come from Satan’s lying influence coupled with self-focus instead of God-focus (forgetting about the process and God’s promises/character)
process for dealing with real guilt – see v.5 – acknowledge sin, uncover/unhide/turn from sin, confess sin, receive forgiveness
God promises forgiveness in response to repentance and confession; eliminates basis for guilt feelings, ammunition to tell Satan to get lost
Christian can speak good words of God’s character: patient, gracious, merciful, forgiving; see Deut. 34:6-7
often fear of the unknown (Matt. 6:34 “do not be anxious for tomorrow”) and feeling of not being in control; to an extreme, paralyzing (panic attacks)
Christian can speak good words of God’s character: rock, shield, fortress, refuge, hiding place; omniscient, omnipotent;
names of God: Elohim (all-powerful); Shaddai (all-sufficient); Immanuel (God with us); Rohi (shepherd)
and his promises: Rom. 8:31ff Heb. 13:5
May we make constant effort in God’s strength to ensure our speech is that which will bring grace to others, that will encourage and bless them as we have been blessed. May our prayer be like that of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. St. Francis of Assisi – 13th century