Faith Works: A Study in James

Devotional

How does faith work when you want to speak your mind? 


“Loose lips sink ships.” During World War II, this slogan appeared on propaganda posters created and distributed by a major American distiller. The slogan advised servicemen and other American citizens to avoid careless talk about secure military information. Speaking openly about knowledge of a ship’s course might allow the enemy to intercept and destroy American naval ships.


Consider for a moment that, in the day that James warned us to consider our communication, there was no electricity, printing press, or internet. How much more ominous are his words in our day of cell phones, emails, texts, social media, platforms, comments sections, phone calls, videos, and the innumerable other ways we can curse others with our communication?


As someone who has spent their adult life largely in the public eye communicating, there is a list of regrets that quickly comes to mind of things I have said and typed. The timeless Word of God is more timely than ever and careless and uncontrolled speech can bring much destruction unlike any other time in human history.


How many truths are twisted? How many lies are told? How many facts are buried? How many news stories are fake? How many classroom lectures are indoctrination? How many ads are false claims? How many juicy gossip stories are myths? How many social media platforms are throttling good and promoting evil? How many politicians know they are spinning facts rather than serving the Father? How many lawyers generate income by doing what Paul called suppressing the truth? How many PR firms are violating the commands against lying and false witness in favor of building and defending a narrative?


In our world of click-bait and ad revenue cashing in on the emotions of anger and fear, loving God with all our tongue is like fighting gravity.


James’ point is that the communication that comes out of us starts deep in us.  Like a bullet that is fired, or fire that is started, once a word is spoken, we can’t take it back. While we may not attack someone with our fists, our words can still cause major damage even from far away. Our tongue can speak blessing and cursing, life and death. Jesus tells us our mouth speaks about what ultimately fills our heart (Luke 6:45). A haughty heart speaks evil, a holy heart speaks life. Like water that comes from a spring, Jesus was clear that the words we communicate flow from our hearts and expose our deepest selves.


For our words to change, our heart must first change. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to change who we are and what we communicate. Things are so bad it will take a miracle to accomplish these twin tasks. Thankfully, our God specializes in miracles.


In my own failures in this area, one thing I have noticed is that my first response when I am angry, hurt, frustrated, tired, or offended is in the flesh. If I respond quickly, that response is often not the most godly. If I wait, pray, process, journal, go for a walk, and invite the Holy Spirit to change what’s going on inside of me, I find that something very different comes out of me.


 


Recall a recent instance where your tongue was not tamed. How did it corrupt your whole body and the course of your life (James 3:6)? After reading this section of James, how do you better understand the importance of your tongue and the words you use? Who can you apologize to, own your failures, and invite the Holy Spirit to change how you speak to or about them?