James Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

In my lectio divina reading of James, I’m up to chapter 3. Here’s what stands out to me:

“The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:6b

James already warned us that we should be slow to anger (James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?) and now he is telling us what may happen if we don’t think before we speak. I’m particularly struck by the phrase “setting on fire the entire course of life.” A cruel word cannot be called back, and it can burn bridges for life. Family members have become estranged, friendships have ended, divorces have been set in motion, all because of unwise words spoken in anger.

Hateful words are destructive. They do not come from God. In many places the Bible tells us to encourage, not discourage. Relationships will be more pleasant, conflict will be avoided, and life will be happier, if we watch our words. It’s a no-brainer, but one we all seem to find hard to observe.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

It shouldn’t be that hard. Listen to James and use your kind words! It will make your life better.

For more on the book of James see:

Luther and the Book of James

James Chapter 1 — What Stands Out?

Words — What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about our words. For example:

“Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
    with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. Proverbs” 18:20

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken” Proverbs 25:11

Imagine that! Words are powerful — they can heal; they can satisfy; they have beauty. We don’t have to be rich, we can help and bless others with nothing more than our words. To do this, however, we must use words correctly. They should be kind, gracious and appropriate.

Think back over the past week or day. Isn’t it true that sometimes a simple phrase like “thank you”, “I love you” or “have a nice day” has lifted your spirit? Don’t we all like to hear the words, “good job” or “nice work”? What about “I’m so sorry”, “how can I help?” or ” I’ll pray for you”?

It doesn’t take much time or effort to use words that are caring and courteous. Why not view this as a spiritual discipline? If you make the effort, it will soon become a habit, and that habit will encourage others. As Frederick W. Faber((28 June 1814 — 26 September 1863), a hymn writer and theologian said:

With the help of grace, the habit of saying kind words is very quickly formed, and when once formed, it is not speedily lost.”

So, make time to think about your words. Use them well. You will be blessed and become a blessing to others.

For more about being kind see these posts:

The Kindness Crown

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story–Movie Review

Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review

Good Words

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  Proverbs 12:25

This verse appeared in my devotion reading recently and I thought, “how appropriate.”  These days we are feeling all kinds of anxiety.  We’re worried about becoming ill, we’re worried about our jobs and the economy, we’re worried about friends and family we cannot visit, and more.  We’re also feeling isolated, alone, frustrated, and yes, even angry.  It’s easy to take those bad feelings out on others and lash out.  I actually read that divorce lawyers are expecting an uptick in cases filed — this often happens when people are confined in close quarters for longer than usual!

The verse above tells us that in trying times, it’s important to make our words “good.”  Good words can be affirming, encouraging, edifying or helpful.  Good words are courteous — please and thank you.  They lift others up — good job!  you look so nice!  have a blessed day!  They empathize — I’m sorry.  Can I pray for you?  How can I help?  They forgive — it’s okay.  Good words are loving.  They are patient, kind, truthful, hopeful and enduring.  Think back on your own life.  Aren’t the people who spoke those sorts of good words to you, the ones you appreciate and remember the most?

Because of original sin, we’re quicker to criticize, complain and tear down.  Social media makes it easy for us to respond in an instant, in anger, and without facing the consequences of seeing one another in person.  Then those thoughtless words spread around, creating more and more separation and sin.  We become stubborn;  we take sides;  we grumble and allow our discontent to grow.  Don’t give in to the temptation.    Here’s a test I read once to use before speaking:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

In case you didn’t notice, this an anagram — the first letter of each word spells THINK.  So THINK before you speak.  Use your good words.  It’s the wise thing to do.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.”  Ecclesiastes 10:12

For more on kindness see these posts:

A Quote on Kindness

The Kindness Crown

The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki — Book Review