Speaking first v Thinking first
A self-controlled heart: Having self-control over our words and being generous with them instead.
“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.”
(James 3:5 NIV)
Further reading to accompany today’s reflection: James 3:1-12
It’s been estimated that the average person speaks around 16,000 words per day. Working on the basis that we sleep for approximately 8 hours, that means the average person will speak 1000 words per hour which equates to about 16.5 words every minute.
I wonder how many of the 16,000 words I utter today I will be pleased with and how many I will wish I hadn’t said? I wonder how many of those 16,000 words I would say again and how many I would delete from the script?
The average size of the human tongue is 10cm. The passage we are considering today seeks to show us how much potential there is in something so small. It has an ability beyond its size to both tear down and build up.
I listen to North Korea and America both firing words at each other and I’m reminded how those words are able to bring about global unrest. Then I remember the words of Martin Luther King in his famous speech, ‘I have a dream,’ which brought about incredible change for the betterment of humanity, and how those words are still in the minds of many today. I consider the serpent’s words in the garden of Eden, ‘Did God really say…?’ which initiated our separation from God. And then I read those incredible words of Jesus on the cross, ‘It is finished,’ announcing the greatest moment in history: Jesus taking the punishment for the whole world. Our tongue really does have incredible potential.
I remember a wise older man once saying to me, ‘Mark, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you a fool than open it and remove all shadow of doubt.’ That makes me smile and also challenges me. I want my words to match what people think about me – but in a good way!
So many of the thousands of words we use are in the moment and unplanned, but wouldn’t it be amazing if we could think more before we speak? It would be good today, and through this week, to make a proactive decision to only speak what builds up and encourages. What if we could believe that with God’s help we would speak only words that value people and honour God?
Questions for reflection:
1. What can I do to speak proactively positive and not reactively negative?2. Are there any words that I have spoken that after thinking about them I shouldn’t have said – can I go and use words to put things right?
Dear Father, forgive me when my words bring harm to others and dishonour you. Help me to control my tongue and not be controlled by it. Help me build others up and praise you, showing my love for you and my neighbour in my words matched by my actions. Amen.
Written by Mark Greenwood
Mark Greenwood is married and has two children. He has been in full-time evangelism for 30 years and is the National Evangelist for the Elim Church, heading up evangelism for the denomination under this role. He loves curry, brogues and gadgets as well as rugby. Mark also serves as a national leadership team member for HOPE.
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