January 22, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”—James 3:1–12 (NIV)
Have you ever heard someone say something that stuck with you? People’s words have more power than we realize. The Bible spells it out for us in Proverbs 18:21 (NIV), saying, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
I have a lot of happy memories from my childhood, but a few negative ones still affect me to this day—and almost all have to do with the words someone spoke over me. Countless times, I will have an experience or be talking with a friend and something will trigger a memory of someone talking down to me or saying something that dictated how I viewed myself growing up. It can sometimes be a never-ending battle trying to unlearn what people have said with little to no thought.
During Jesus’ ministry, He made a point to place value on the words He spoke and the words He encouraged others to speak. He knew how powerful words have the potential to be. Words hold stories and encouragement, but they can also pave a path to destruction.
Have you ever had someone say something to you as a child that changed how you saw yourself? Does it still change the way you see yourself now? For me, it took a long time to deconstruct the lies that were spoken over me which diminished my self-worth and reconstruct it with the truth.
Jesus calls us to speak life over each other. As Christians, it’s important the words we say reflect the heart of Jesus. He made each of us uniquely. It’s not our place to tear that down, no matter how frustrated or upset we are. Our words can impact someone for a lifetime and cause immense harm. It’s vital to our community that we speak life over each other, call out our strengths and gifts, and build each other up so we can gain confidence in who God created us to be and reflect His creation.
In a world that views Christians from the outside as hateful, it’s more important than ever to start working towards that narrative shift with our actions. After all, this is what Jesus has been telling us to do for thousands of years through His ministry! During His time, the Pharisees were known for these exact things, and we shouldn’t fall into the same trap.
Let’s be Christians and not Pharisees as we will ultimately be held accountable for what we do and say on this earth. Let’s make the most of our words and use them to be the light God called us to be.
Pause: Do you still dwell on something negative someone said about you a long time ago? How can you start to unlearn that? Do you have a habit of speaking negatively about others?
Practice: Try to take a few minutes each day to sit and reflect on the positive things about the people in your life, especially those you might find frustrating. Doing this day-by-day can change your entire outlook in the long run.
Pray: Father, please heal my heart from the untrue things people have spoken over me in my life. I know You stitched me in my mother’s womb, and I am made in Your image. Please help me be known as someone who speaks life over others. Amen.
Kristen Hollis has served in the Communications Team of Calvary since 2020 as a Senior Copywriter and Editor. She contributes and edits content for Calvary’s digital and promotional initiatives. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Kristen and her husband Zachary enjoy all things musical theatre, vinyl hunting, and having the opportunity to serve Calvary on staff while utilizing their talents.