7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:7-10 ESV
Last weekend I did my best to bring clarity to the meaning of a common phrase in the pages of the New Testament: “in the name of Jesus.” I went to great lengths to convince you that “in the name of Jesus” was about the reputation, character, and calling of the Son of God not magic words like abracadabra. I used the example of a heretic named Barry Bennett, who teaches that words themselves have power. Bennett says, “The fountain of youth may be as close as the nearest water fountain. If you bless your water; if you speak blessings over your food, then those are having an impact on you…There is a power in blessing things.”
As hard as it is for me not to laugh when I hear something like this, I know many have been deceived into believing errors like this. That’s why it’s so important we understand the true meaning behind, “There is power in the name of Jesus.” The power is in the person, not the words. In case you missed it, or if you want to read for yourself a great story that exemplifies this truth, just turn to Acts 19:11-20 and read about the sons of Sceva and their failed attempt at speaking “in the name of Jesus.” There are no magic words in the Kingdom of God.
So what is James talking about when he writes, in James 3:6, that the tongue is a fire? If the tongue is able to destroy, like fire, it must be the words it speaks that are so destructive, right? Yep. That’s right. This is why so many have been led astray, thinking that because the Bible ascribes power to words, they must therefore be able to produce physical healing or change the molecular structure of water. Case in point: the word “Jesus,” peddled as a powerful word, able to cure cancer, and heal any illness. How superficial. How sad. How wrong.
Actually, James is teaching us that words are powerful because they communicate, they educate, they encourage and they can discourage. If words communicating lies are believed and followed, terrible things may happen. War is declared with words. Peace is established through words. Their power, however, is not in the words themselves; it’s not in the soundwaves that travel from mouth the ear. Their power is in their meaning. For example, “the name of Jesus” is referring to the person of Jesus rather than what people called him. So the power of words is found in the communication that words make possible.
So how are you using your words? James says, “from the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). The words spoken by a follower of Christ should be words of blessing, not cursing. The old expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words can hurt. We’ve all experienced the sting of the words “you’re so stupid,” or “I hate you.” Every child longs to hear mom or dad say the words, “I’m proud of you.” These are what James calls, “blessings and cursings.”
Think about the words you speak. What do you say to your spouse, your children, your employees, your neighbors, friends, and complete strangers? Make sure your words are words of blessing, not cursing. I’ll be the first to admit I have not spoken all words of blessing to my wife. Just this last week I have spoken words of discouragement. Reminding her of things that she’s done wrong, pointing out her faults; all the while paying little to no attention to my own, and they are plenty. I had forgotten the power of words. I had forgotten James’ warning - his admonition: “My brother, these things ought not be so.”
I will choose to speak words of blessing. I will choose to encourage. When I don’t, then I will admit it, ask for forgiveness, and remember afresh the precious words of Jesus who said,
“…neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
10 of the most amazing words ever spoken to the heart of broken humanity; including mine.
Loved and forgiven by Jesus,