Several years ago, Barber County, Kansas was home to me. I lived in a spot in the road called Hazelton, and I was a frequent visitor of Anthony, Kiowa, and Medicine Lodge. When I needed to stock up on groceries, I would drive to Alva, Oklahoma. Alva also had a tasty hamburger served at a café on the town square.
As I watched the news yesterday, I followed the raging prairie fire as it devoured rain-starved pastures and some 72,000 acres. I thought of my old friends in this rural pocket of Kansas, and I prayed for their safety and well-being.
The voracious appetite of a fire is a graphic illustration of some scripture found in James 3:6-10:
A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! ~The Message
The words you speak are ripe with the potential to be either healing or harmful.
Think about the way you have spoken to people this week: Have your words beaten them down and left them battered and bruised, or have you use the gift of language to encourage, instruct, and build them up?
If your tongue is in need of taming, it might help to ponder the principles below:
- Foolish words cut like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)
- Pleasing words are like honey. They are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24)
- A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth causes ruin (Proverbs 26:28)
- Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).
Give some thought to the brute strength of your words: They can be as devastating as they are delightful, and even though they may be forgiven, they’re rarely forgotten.
Will people remember you for your soothing words that helped them to heal, or for language that was so heated it left them scorched and scarred…like the fires that have swept across the Kansas prairies?