Wednesday 27 March

3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

We live in a context in which words are cheap. We have lost the sense that was common in the ancient world that words are instruments of power. In John 1:3,4, the Word is the means through which “All things came into being” and without which “not one thing came into being.” For John the Gospel writer, the Word is “life.”

So, the words I speak create the reality I live.

When a constant flow of criticism, judgment, resentment, and bitterness pours forth from my mouth, I create a world of separation and suffering. When I speak words of affirmation, encouragement, blessing, and beauty, I participate in helping “life” prosper and flourish.

But my words must be genuine. Inauthentic words never support “life.” If my words are going to be a vehicle for healing and reconciliation, they must be genuine. Words that I speak from a heart that contradicts their content, will never bring “life” into the world.

Jesus’s greatest struggle was with people he called “hypocrites” (Matthew 23). Hypocrites are people who know all the right words, but their words do not reflect what is in their hearts. Words, like actions, will only be right when the heart is right.

This is why James cautions that “Not many of you should become teachers.” To be a “teacher” is to seek to speak exalted words of beauty and power about the deepest truths of life. If these words do not come from a heart that is genuinely open to the power they seek to convey, they bring only death.

In preaching, and even daily conversation, I need to allow my words to be guided by two questions: Is this an authentic word that reflects my true experience? Does this word come from a place of truth within myself? A genuine word spoken from my own experience deep within, will enable the power of love to flow.