With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3.9)
Each time I sit down before a keyboard and stare at a blank screen, I say a quiet prayer that my words glorify God and encourage God’s people. There is so much hate speech in the world today. I count it my ministry to say something not only truthful, but uplifting. Speak the truth in love, as Paul writes in Ephesians. When we do, we make a tremendous impact on those who hear us, many of whom have been beaten down for years with messages that they are no good, that what they do is not worthy, that they will never measure up, that they are not loved.
I had a high school tennis coach who knew the power of encouraging speech. He knew next to nothing about tennis, but he knew how to inspire us. He taught us that we each had an integral role to play on the team. He made us want to improve to become as valuable as we were in his eyes. He brought in talented community players as his assistants to teach us the game. He had nothing to pay them except his uplifting words that they were making a major difference in the lives of young men. And that was more than enough In just two years, we went from being the laughing stocks, to perennial conference champs, the team to beat filled with confident young men who had someone who saw their value not just in sport. but in life.
Each of us has immeasurable value as ones created in the image of God. This image has been stained by sin, no doubt. But we don’t restore this goodness with damning speech. Too often, as James shows, we allow careless speech to slip through our lips. We beat people up with what we say and the way we say it. Often this is with the best intent. We say things we think will be helpful. We talk about people under a thin veil of concern, when in fact, we are just gossiping in such a way that we tear them down.
As one who has a severe mental illness, I have experienced first hand how debilitating speech can be. When I got out of the hospital after my first episode, I found there were many more talking about me than talking to me. By God’s grace, I did receive a great deal of encouragement from some who counterbalanced the ill effects of the gossip. But it still hurt. And left permanent scars.
Instead of careless speech that tears down, we are called to a sort of carefree speech that comes from a faithful heart. When genuine faith lives in the heart, it will be connected to the tongue and impact what is said. Love, peace, and joy will be seeds of hope sown to produce hope in the lives of the hurting.
““For the rest of his life, Oliver Twist remembers a single word of blessing spoken to him by another child because this word stood out so strikingly from the consistent discouragement around him.” ― Charles Dickens,