Isaiah 9 & James 3

Isaiah 9

     But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

     The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
        on them has light shone.
    You have multiplied the nation;
        you have increased its joy;
    they rejoice before you
        as with joy at the harvest,
        as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
    For the yoke of his burden,
        and the staff for his shoulder,
        the rod of his oppressor,
        you have broken as on the day of Midian.
    For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
        and every garment rolled in blood
        will be burned as fuel for the fire.
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given;
    and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
        and his name shall be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the increase of his government and of peace
        there will be no end,
    on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
        to establish it and to uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
        from this time forth and forevermore.
    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
        The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
        and it will fall on Israel;
    and all the people will know,
        Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
        who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
    “The bricks have fallen,
        but we will build with dressed stones;
    the sycamores have been cut down,
        but we will put cedars in their place.”
    But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
        and stirs up his enemies.
    The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
        devour Israel with open mouth.
    For all this his anger has not turned away,
        and his hand is stretched out still.
    The people did not turn to him who struck them,
        nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.
    So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
        palm branch and reed in one day—
    the elder and honored man is the head,
        and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
    for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
        and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
    Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
        and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;
    for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
        and every mouth speaks folly.
    For all this his anger has not turned away,
        and his hand is stretched out still.
    For wickedness burns like a fire;
        it consumes briers and thorns;
    it kindles the thickets of the forest,
        and they roll upward in a column of smoke.
    Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts
        the land is scorched,
    and the people are like fuel for the fire;
        no one spares another.
    They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,
        and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;
    each devours the flesh of his own arm,
    Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;
        together they are against Judah.
    For all this his anger has not turned away,
        and his hand is stretched out still.

(Isaiah 9 ESV)

James 3

    Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

    How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

    Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

(James 3 ESV)

James 3: Just to be clear, the popular jingle, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie that contradicts what Scripture has to say about the power of our words. As Christian parents and adults, let's not patronize our children with any nonsense that says words are powerless over us. We have great power to hurt others with our words, and we ourselves will inevitably be hurt by the words of others so let’s not pretend any different.

If we truly want to protect and encourage others to overcome the harmfulness of words then lets have honest discussions about the hurt experienced from harmful speech. Telling the lie that “words should never hurt you” can lead those that are hurt to feel as if they are weak or the ones who are in the wrong. They can falsely accuse themselves of being too defensive and then begin the destructive habit of concealing their hearts and covering up their hurt because they are charged with “taking things too seriously.”

In his letter, James describes how our words and the way in which we use them can exercise dominion over our lives and the lives of others. They have a way of controlling, consuming and contaminating our character if we aren’t careful in harnessing their power.

Like a tiny rudder that possess the power to control a massive ship, our words possess the power to guide our life’s course for good or for evil. The things that we say and how we say them will directly influence and impact the direction that all of our relationships take. 

And as words possess the power to control the course of our life and our relationships, they also possess the power to destructively consume everything in their path when used carelessly. Like a spark that sets a forest on fire, words that are spoken carelessly rarely, if ever, remain isolated into one particular area or stay contained within the one initial moment that they were spoken. They can be a source of destruction that is leveraged by the spiritual forces of hell to cause massive destruction that spreads like wildfire.

How many miseries could we bring, how many hearts could we break, how many tears could we cause, how many reputations could we ruin, how much bitterness could we arouse, how much shame could we bring, and how many destructive paths could we lead others down simply through the things we chose to say at any given moment? The price we could pay for the careless use of our words is enormous!

We as sinful man do not possess the ability or strength to harness the power of our words without the help of the Holy Spirit transforming the source from which they flow (our hearts). 

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Without the Spirit’s help in transforming our hearts, our words can become a deadly poison that contaminates our character. We naturally gossip, manipulate, lie, exaggerate, belittle, criticize and deceive others by the things that we say. We even fall into the disgusting hypocrisy of praising God and cursing others with the same mouth. This kind of worship of God contaminated with contempt towards others is unacceptable and should become unnatural behavior for the true Christian disciple.

Therefore, those who seek to truly honor and worship God will harness the power possessed by their words in order to truly glorify God and bless others.

James’ warns us to not speak too quickly lest we stumble in what we say. Let’s avoid approaching moments of confrontation without considering our words cautiously and carefully. None of us have the right to just say whatever we want to say because we will all be held accountable for the words we choose to use. Therefore, lets heed James’ warning and accept responsibility for our words harnessing these small flames to warm hearts instead of burning them.