The words we speak are real. Words can inspire and they can wound. Words can give hope or they can stir up anger and mistrust. Words can build up and they can tear apart. Words can sooth a burn and they can spark a fire. Our words, written or spoken, are how we interact with the world and souls around us.
In recent days, I have been learning — slowly for sure — that my own words have an impact. I have two young daughters. They hear not just my spoken words, but also the words I’m not vocalizing. I’ve had opportunities to share on a bigger platform and I realized that my words can impact far beyond my intentions. As we watch the news (or read the newspaper!), we see that words alone can escalate or deescalate tensions between cities and even nations.
There is a passage in the book of Hebrews that describes God’s words. We learn that the Father’s words are sharp, decisive, penetrating and precise. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
Seeing the sharpness of the Father’s words makes me wonder how dull my words might be. If the Father’s words are a sword, am I wielding a club instead? If the Father’s words are precise, are my words chaotic and undisciplined? James addressed the great significance of words, calling the tongue “a flame of fire.” He said, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:27 NLT). James continued on, “Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:9-10 NLT)
James had a point. This is not right. It is not OK for life and destruction to come from the same place. Which will it be? Will your words build up or will your words tear down? Will your words bring peace or will your words spread venom? Please, use your words to speak life.
For those walking with Christ, our words have a greater significance than we often care to admit. And really, that is true of everyone. Words are real. Words might not have flesh and bone, but words certainly have weight. Additionally, words can live on, even when the tongue that uttered the words passes on.
“Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11 NLT)
May our words be precise — precise enough to cut out injustice and despair, precise enough to reflect well the God of all Creation. May our words and actions bring glory to God through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Cody Haar is an associate pastor at Cornerstone Church and the secretary/treasurer of Pastors United in Christ.