Summary: Words can either build up or tear down, encourage or discourage.
The Power Of Words
James 3:3-10 "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.'
The raging bush fires that destroy life, limb, and property in the Australian bush are notorious for their ferocity and destructive power. When the flames start to top the dry, resinous gum trees, they may race along with tremendous explosive fury at speeds up to eighty kilometres an hour. The flames furiously fly through the tree tops; consuming the homes and dreams of hapless victims and the lives of brave fire fighters and others unable to escape their swift destruction. There is no stopping or diverting the sure disaster in store for anyone or anything caught in the path of these terrible flames.
It seems a paradox that these awesome fires that sometimes cover thousands of square kilometres, are often started by a tiny spark or a single careless match. A criminal arsonist, pyromaniac or careless person, can initiate terrible and boundless destruction. Anyone seeing the graphic result of such deliberate crime or carelessness does not wonder at the severe penalties imposed for violation of fire bans during bush fire season.
But according to God's Word there is a tiny entity that is even more potentially destructive than a match or spark during bush fire season. The uncontrolled tongue can spark a human conflagration that can rage for days, months, or even years; out of control, destroying individuals, families, churches, or even nations. Wars are not only sometimes fought with words, but many wars have been fought over a few careless and thoughtless words.
We should always remember that the tongue has the potential to light a fire that cannot be put out and cause destruction that cannot be reversed. The story is told of a particular woman who was known as a notorious gossip. After hearing her pastor preach on the subject of the destructiveness caused by an uncontrolled tongue, she went to him in what appeared to be sincere repentance and contrition. Confessing her problem, she asked him what she could do to reverse the hurt caused by the gossip and the malicious words uttered by her unbridled tongue. He told her to go home and get a feather pillow from her bed; then go to the highest hill in the town on a windy day and rip the pillow cover open and throw the feathers into the wind. Then to go all over town and gather the feathers and stuff them back into the pillow. "But," she said, "I can never get them all back!" The preacher replied, ‘That’s the point,
Hurtful words carelessly spoken can never be retrieved, not matter how one might regret them.!
The need to tame this potentially dangerous and destructive organ is all too obvious. And it can be tamed and controlled. Correct and judicious pressure brought to bear by a tiny, slim bit in the mouth of the wildest horse can bring the beast under control. In our day, gigantic ships, hundreds of metres long, weighing thousands of tons, ply the ocean trade routes; steered by the touch of a master's fingers on a small control panel. Great planes wing their way through the stratosphere steered by a skilled pilot's sensitive touch. The Holy Spirit sensitively touching the heart and life of a believer can bring into captivity the terrible destructive power of the human tongue and harness its potential for good.
One of my greatest regrets as a parent whose children long ago went their own way in the world, is that because of my traditional upbringing, I seemed to view my role as a parent more as a stern disciplinarian and discourager rather than a loving and engaged encourager. Many of my generation tended to see ourselves as only policemen rather than encouragers. We were somewhat ignorant of the importance of constantly speaking words of real encouragement to our children along the way. We had none of the good Christian books and helps on the subject that are available today. If I could only go back I would focus more on the strengths and positive abilities of my children and speak many timely words of encouragement, I would willingly and enthusiastically do so.