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Posts Tagged ‘James 1:26’

I think about words a lot. After all, I am a writer. As I weave my sentences together, even in a short blog, I am always asking myself, ‘Can I put things in a better way? Will this be relevant to my readers? Am I saying something worthwhile that may comfort or encourage or challenge?’ Beyond that, I also ask, ‘Is this something God wants me to write—or am I off course? Does it honour God? Does it line up with God’s Word?’

When it comes to novel writing, there are many more questions I need to ask. Is this part necessary? Does it move the plot forward? Is this character believable? Do I need more or less description here? With non-fiction, there are questions too. Should I expand this or that point? Do my chapters each build on what I am trying to say? Should I add more illustrations—or quotations—or Bible references? On it goes.

As COVID allows, however, I am also a speaker—and this is where I need to think even more about my many words. Here they are not tumbling out of my mind onto my computer screen where I can then edit them. Instead, they roll off my tongue so easily and, once spoken, are very hard to take back. I may have been invited to speak somewhere to inform or entertain a secular audience for an hour or so, but I want to honour God in it all too. And in a church context, I want to share a message that will enable those present to draw closer to God in some way and allow God’s Spirit to touch hearts and change lives. What a responsibility! And how careful I need to be to listen to God through it all.

Yet we all need to be so careful in our normal, everyday lives too with the words we speak and write—a quick instruction here and there, a sharp response, a friendly chat with a neighbour, an email, a Facebook comment. Sometimes it can be so hard, can’t it, to reign in that tongue of ours, as James reminds us (James 1:26), or those words that can flow out so thoughtlessly into cyberspace? Before we know it, we can either build up or tear down.

In recent weeks, I have been thinking even more about the power of words as a possible topic for yet another book project of mine, along with trying to plan my speaking schedule for the year as best I can in our COVID context. And no doubt that is why I sat up and took more notice than usual when I read the following verses in Proverbs one morning:

Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:20-21 NLT

Wow—gulp! What power we have at our disposal each day with those words we wield!

I want my words to be wise and satisfying, don’t you? And I definitely want to bring life and not death via what I speak or write. Words matter indeed—to God and to our listeners or readers. May we each choose them carefully. And may we always harvest good fruit from them.

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I had a humbling experience this week.  It happened like this.  I was in the middle of a rather heated phone conversation with a business associate when this person, during the course of a prolonged harangue, declared that he and his colleagues were ‘not unintelligent’.  He then proceeded to defend his actions (or lack of them) even further, but at that point I cut in – or tried to.  I wanted with all my heart to strike back, so began telling him, I’m sure in equally heated manner, that that was in fact how I felt he was treating me – as someone quite unintelligent and stupid.

But here’s what happened next.  As I began hurling my own insults back, he spoke over the top of me – even more so than he had already.  But this time he told me he couldn’t hear me clearly because the line was ‘crackly’ – that sometimes it did that, that he was very sorry but would I please repeat what I had just said?  At first, I was unsure I had heard him correctly myself.  The line wasn’t ‘crackly’ my end – except with my own fury!  I could hear perfectly well – so well that it made me very sceptical he was in fact speaking the truth.  At that point, however, I regained a little more sanity.  What was the point of playing ‘tit for tat’?  How would any rude comments of mine help?  With wisdom way beyond my own, I therefore told him, albeit rather curtly, that what I had said didn’t matter.

With the beauty of hindsight, I believe God rescued me.  I believe God stepped in, called a halt, and put a firm hand over my mouth!  Little did this business associate know God was using such lack of self-discipline and possible lack of Christian integrity on his part to shock me into realising I could respond in a much better way.  Indeed I have to, if I am going to take seriously what God says.  Listen to Proverbs 17:27-28, for starters:

A man of knowledge uses words of restraint

                And a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,

                And discerning if he holds his tongue.

And then there is James 1:26 – and what a punch it pulls!

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

That certainly doesn’t leave me with many excuses.  Neither does Ephesians 4:29:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I did not feel built up or encouraged at all at the end of this particular phone conversation.  But I would have felt much worse if this person had actually heard all the words I had tried to hurl at him.  I suspect he has lots of needs.  I don’t know what would benefit him most, but hopefully there are those closer to him who do and who will act in love towards him.  In the meantime, I’m so grateful that God reached out to me in love, put his hand over my mouth and reminded me to close it!

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