When I was young and had been upset by something someone had said to me my mum would say: “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never harm you” if only that were true.
Bones mends but the damage of words can affect us for years. In fact we may never recover. More accurate might be the wartime motto: “Careless words cost lives.” I am sure that we can all recall things that were said to us many years ago that are still with us. Words can heal as well and it may be that you can still recall an encouraging word that someone gave you years ago that helped you. Words have power, to harm or heal so how are we going to use that power? I have heard a few metaphors for the tongue. You may have a silver tongue, forked tongue, or even a sharp tongue.
The Bible also recognises the power of the tongue and uses different metaphors to describe it. James one of the founders of the early church recognises the tongues power for harm and writes about it in a letter to the churches. He also tries to describe its power using different pictures.
You can read this by clicking here.
The examples of a bit and a rudder underline how something very small can control something very large and can set its direction. So although the tongue might seem small and insignificant it can wield huge power. James also likens it to a spark that can set a great forest on fire.
We have seen how damaging this can be in Saddleworth Moor and other areas like the Pennines and Bolton. Just like a spark the damage our tongue can do can spread its destructive power and cause untold damage that can take a huge amount of time and effort to clear up and sometimes leaves lasting destruction.
Words have power, how are we going to use that power? James describes it as a “World of Evil” there is no doubt that fire is very destructive, but if harnessed can be a force for good. The discovery of fire is one of the biggest steps forward for mankind. It brings warmth, enables cooking, creativity through pottery, ironwork etc. it drives industry and powers our lives and drives our cars and planes. The tongue can and should be harnessed for good. No human can tame the tongue, and if we are honest we all say things that we regret at different times. We wish that we had kept our mouths shut. But God’s Spirit can help us. The fruits of the Spirit include goodness, kindness and self-control.
James goes on to talk about the different aspects of the use of our tongue. We praise God with it and in the same breath curse and hurt the people that He loves. This doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be like this.
Tongues of fire: a destructive force or a force for good or harm?
It is just like a stream that pours out pure, sweet, fresh water one minute and then pours out foul poison. I think he is trying to say that there needs to be integrity. What comes out of us is what is really inside of us. Just like if you knock over a bucket what is already in there will pour out. What comes out of us is what is inside us. What is in your bucket? What is inside you? Is it blessings or curses? When something or someone knocks us what comes pouring out? Fresh water, luke warm water or sewage. We needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Just as Jesus was filled with the spirit and his words brought life so we too need to be filled with that same life giving spirit. Some of you here may have been damaged by words in your past. This says more about what is in them than about who you are. Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit that will fill you with the knowledge of God’s great love for you. That will help wash away the pain.
Before you speak T.H.I.N.K.
Is it True
Is it Helpful
Is it Inspiring
Is it Necessary
Is it Kind
We have “Tongues of fire”: a destructive force or a force for good. Our words have power, how are we going to use that power? Spirit inspired people like Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and the bible itself brought, and bring, words of encouragement and healing. Imagine how transformational it could be if we all spoke kindly to people Wouldn’t that be as refreshing as a pure spring of water?