Smokey Bear has reminded us for over seventy years that “only you can prevent forest fires.” The damage from just a small spark can lay waste to a beautiful forest and destroy whole communities. Scripture uses the same vocabulary to describe the destructive power of our words: “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5)
With the potential for such destruction, and also the potential for good that comes from our speech, it’s important to say what Jesus wants us to say, and not just imitate the values of our culture. Our world is filled with speech characterized by hatred, jealousy, condemnation and anger. Jesus gave a principle that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” We can’t avoid the truth; our speech will reveal what is deep down inside of us.
How does following Jesus affect what we say each day and why? He is described as “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He is God’s ultimate communication to his creation. And we are told that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” As he lives through us, we can expect to be speaking with both grace and truth. Jesus’s life was marked not just by loving and gracious words, but by honest words that reflected truth about himself and the world around him.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit came upon them they would experience power to be his witnesses. As we yield to his control, we’ll find that we’ll want to tell others about him. That doesn’t mean we’ll be obnoxious or condescending to others, as some fear. In fact, just the opposite: we’ll be kind and compassionate, telling people who Jesus is and what a difference he has made in our lives.
But saying what God wants us to say isn’t just about telling others about Jesus. It is using our words to talk to others the way Jesus would: expressing kindness and forgiveness, and affirming others for who they are and things they do well. In doing so, we bless them and encourage them on their spiritual journey.
Is there a change in the way you should speak to someone in your life? Think of at least one person and how you will speak differently to them the next time you interact with them.
Will you say what God wants you to say today?