“Sticks and stones, brother.” Someone once said that to me when I asked what was bumming him out. After asking a few questions, I found out that someone had said some things to him off-handedly. They didn’t necessarily intend to hurt him, but nonetheless, he walked away with some wounds.
The power of words to hurt us. I don’t care how tough you are. When someone tears into you, whether you deserve it or not, that can inflict more pain that a smack upside the head, even if you’re sitting next to Moe from The Three Stooges.
How closely do you watch what you say to people? This question is for all of us, not just people who are sensitive to others’ feelings. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be said. For disciples who follow Jesus, how we say what we say is just as important as what we say.
In James 3, the author talks about how our tongues are the most dangerous part of our body because of the damage it can inflict.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
It’s like our tongues could be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder! I am not someone who shocks easily, especially when it comes to language. I crack up when people let a four letter word slip (love, good, poop, icy, etc.) and look at me in apology. Like I’ve never said those words, thought those words, or knew that those words existed!
I don’t think that James and other pieces of Scripture are concerned with what English vowels and consonants we string together to form concepts we want to verbally communicate. To God, language reflects your heart. That’s what the big deal is to God, not how specific words organize the letters. So when James talks about how we use our mouths to give a shout out to Jesus but then turn around and stab a friend in the back, he’s highlighting the harm we are causing. I think God could care less what letters you put together to convey how you curse someone. God is concerned about your heart and what is producing the vile you want to express. God is concerned for the person you are dehumanizing.
This is why spreading gossip and rumors are just as big of a deal to God as cursing. We can sugarcoat our words so that they don’t start with the letter f and have three letters following it AND STILL rip someone else to shreds. Words can hurt worse than rocks.
Today, I’m listening to Passion’s song “Let It Be Jesus” and it sparked these thoughts. This song is all about helping us glorifying Jesus because of how incredimazing He is. One lyric stuck out to me, in particular:
“God, I breath your name / above everything / Let it be / Let it be Jesus”
When we speak, our breath is inextricable. And so if we truly want to breath God’s presence in and out, we cannot turn around and tear down His image with our words. If you look to be a Kingdom builder and want to bless the people in this world, because of what Jesus has done for you, watch how you talk to and about others. If Jesus deserves our praise, and He does, then the people created in God’s image deserve to be treated like God is talking about them.