Even though it rarely crosses our mind, there is always someone listening to what we are saying. Words are not just meaningless sounds but were created to communicate and, most importantly, to relay God's thoughts. They contain the power to influence and persuade the listener, which means those who speak are being held accountable for their intentions. Words that are presented from a negative attitude can cause much damage, while words spoken from a heavenly influence are filled with life and can bring hope, faith and encouragement.
A wonderful reminder about how we are to guard our communication is recorded in Philippians 4:8, "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." We have all been affected by words and realize they had some type of impact on who we are today.
God's Word gives us instructions and insight about the power of words and how critical it is to be careful and watch what we say. In the third chapter of James, we read about the potential dangers of the tongue. It talks about how we can put bits in the mouths of horses and use a rudder on a ship as a way to manage direction, but controlling the tongue must be disciplined from within.
Verses 7 and 8 say, "For every kind of beast, and of birds, and serpents, and of creatures in the sea is tamed and has been tamed of mankind; but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." The tongue is a little member of our body, but how quickly it can stir up much trouble. Many lives have been ruined by allowing their hateful and foolish thoughts to be released. This passage continues to identify the tongue as a "world of iniquity" and like a spark that can ignite a raging fire.
For those who know God, our words can be filtered through a humble awareness of our weakness and a passionate desire to walk in God's character.
Have you ever heard the old saying, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt?" This is probably a paraphrase from Proverbs 17:28 that says, "Even a fool when he holds his peace is counted as wise and he that closes his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."
Another old expression is, "Our mind is a garden, our thoughts are our seeds, we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds." When it comes to speaking, a good servant not only desires to eliminate judgmental opinions and negative conversations but has a passion to obey and relay what God is saying. I heard a true story the other day, and it convicts me to consider that people are watching and listening and how important it is to respond when God calls.
A young high school student attended a church camp over the summer and accepted Christ as his Savior. When classes started back in the fall, he really wanted to be a faithful Christian and was excited to tell others about his spiritual experience. He was a member of the football team, and right before the game he sensed that God wanted him to share his testimony in front of everyone now. Naturally, he was a little embarrassed and nervously buckled under the pressure.
The team went out and won the game, and as they returned to the locker room, hooping and hollering, he was again feeling a strong urgency to witness about how Jesus had forgiven and saved him. He privately asked the coach if he could say something and through the noise and chaos the coach shouted, "Everyone be quiet for a minute!" The boy stood up on one of the benches and told his story about how he had surrendered his life to Jesus.
When he finished, the team went back to their wild celebrating. Twenty years later, he received a phone call from one of the boys who was on that team. The man had always remembered that night and said those words had played a huge part in him becoming a Christian. He just wanted to call and say that we never know who is listening and how grateful he was for a young boy's obedience.
William F. Holland Jr. is a minister and chaplain based in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Read more at billyhollandministries.com.