Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.
James reminds us of how our words carry immense capacity for good or for evil. “The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches,” James says, “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire” (James 3:5). Fire is the perfect metaphor, for our words carry great force, and often they recklessly pour out of us. “The tongue is a flame of fire,” James says (James 3:6). Even small words can have immense repercussions.
In fact, the tongue “can set your whole life on fire” (James 3:6). How often have you had a conversation that turned ugly or angry—so much so that the fall-out consumed you or consumed a relationship or left a friendship smoldering in the ashes? It’s true, “no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
Thankfully, this isn’t the whole story. Proverbs tells us that it’s possible for our gentle words to bring restorative life, to bring wholeness (Proverbs 15:4). The tongue’s fire doesn’t have to be destructive. It’s possible for our words to reflect the beautiful and life-giving words God has spoken to us.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Mark 9:38-50
Read Proverbs 15:4. How different is the imagery here from what we find in James 3? How does Proverbs envision the impact of our words?
When have you recently endured the wound of another person’s words? Where do you believe your words have caused harm, and where do you want to see your words bring healing by God’s power?