Careless Words (Part 1)

Susan Hetrick

Read: James 3:1-8

But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (v. 8)

Our words have power. We don’t realize how much power our words have. James did. He warns his readers continuously to guard their tongues; to be mindful of what they say. And in today’s passage, he says that our tongue is “a small member, yet it boasts” (v. 5); it “is a fire, a world of unrighteousness . . . set on fire by hell” (v. 6), and “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (v. 8). Whoa. That’s serious!

When God created the universe, he did it by speaking. Apparently, the sound of God’s voice triggered creation. The words we speak can create things too. Science has shown that our voices create sound waves that can literally change the world. For example, words spoken to children generate sound waves that help form neural pathways in their brains. Those neural pathways become stronger with reinforcement, and eventually the child develops a self-image based on those neural pathways. So, telling children that they are stupid or unwanted creates neural pathways that result in those children believing that they are a mistake, despised, and unlovable. On the other hand, telling children that they are loved, valued, and capable creates a very different set of neural pathways, resulting in children who believe they are dearly loved, treasured, and gifted. That’s a huge difference.

Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).

—Susan Hetrick

God, help us choose our words wisely.