We always hear that actions speak louder than words, but James challenges this idea in his letter to the Church. James describes a tongue that steers the body, driving it as a rudder steers a ship:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example: although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.
Rather than our actions revealing our hearts and our words being meaningless or somehow less impactful, perhaps the words that we speak and the ways in which we speak them actually shape our hearts and guide our actions.
This was the central idea of this week’s church sermon and our mid-week bible study. What our our words saying about our hearts? I left church on Sunday feeling so convicted after our pastor asked us to rank ourselves in the following:
- Hypocrisy – do we say one thing and do another?
- Lying – do we say things we know to be untrue?
- Rationalization – do we try to justify our sins and shortcomings?
- Criticism – do we judge and tear down others?
- Cursing – do we wish people harm?
He then asked us to rank ourselves in the opposite actions:
- Integrity – do we do what we say, and say what we do?
- Honesty – do we speak truth and admit when we are in error?
- Confession – are we honest with ourselves about our sins and shortcomings? Are we honest with others?
- Encouragement – do we lift people up with compassion and grace?
- Forgiveness – do we give forgiveness freely?
I fail in all of these areas on such a regular basis. Looking at this, the idea that the words that I speak can drive the direction of my life is terrifying. How can I claim to be a light to the world when I so clearly speak the opposite?
My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
If I am actively engaged in criticism and rationalization and am failing to confess, encourage and uplift, then I am a salt spring – and I cannot produce fresh water. If instead I am speaking words of grace and forgiveness, with integrity and compassion, then I am a fresh water spring – and I will not produce salt water. I want to be a fresh water spring!
This week, God is challenging me to actively practice confession and repentance – to say “Lord, I messed up, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me, and please help me fix it”.
What did you learn in church this week? Do you think our words shape our attitudes and actions?
Enjoy your long weekend my B.C. friends!