On September 5, 2020, an expectant couple hosted their gender-reveal party. As they set off the pyrotechnic device, they also ignited a large forest fire. The El Dorado fire, 70 miles east of L.A., scorched nearly 23,000 acres before burning out on November 16.
In 2018, another gender-reveal celebration set off an explosion in the Arizona desert, sparking a wildfire, burning more than 47,000 acres, and costing nearly eight million dollars.
It only takes a spark to cause irreversible damage.
The book of James warns that the tongue is a fire. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it, we curse men... (James 3:5-10).
The tongue is a small but powerful muscle. It’s strong enough to break a heart, crush a spirit, or slander a reputation. Once a word leaps off the tongue it can never be retrieved. That is why James wrote, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). We must be very careful with our words whether spoken, written, posted, or tweeted.
Over the past year we’ve witnessed just how powerful words can be. Whether it was the violent riots over the summer or the recent incident at the Capitol, the past year has caused our nation to take a hard look at just how powerful our words can be. State Senator Jen Jordan of Atlanta, speaking to her colleagues in the Georgia legislative session in January of 2021, said, “Words are powerful, especially when they come from those elected to represent the people.”
Words either tear down or build up. Teasing, mocking, and harassing (in person or online) has led to suicide among some teens and younger children. Nearly one in five students report being bullied during the school year, while around 34% of students report being the victim of cyberbullying, which, students shared, impacted their ability to learn and feel safe at school. https://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/statistics
Wouldn’t we rather be known as the one who builds people up and soothes troubled souls? Words can actually bring order to chaos. Some political leaders come to mind: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Franklin Roosevelt’s steady encouragement during the Depression and World War II when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Winston Churchill’s timely words to England as the German threat mounted. What about Ronald Reagan speaking after the 1986 Challenger disaster? And who can forget George W. Bush with his bullhorn at Ground Zero after the twin towers fell, or Barack Obama after the Charleston church shooting? These leaders, some Republican, some Democrat, used their words to speak calm during unsettling times, and to bring people together.
Words may be the most powerful tool available to mankind. How we use our words reveals much about who we are. For Christians, our words also reveal much about our level of spiritual maturity.
Here are some helpful things to think about before releasing our words:
Words of encouragement give us a boost to overcome obstacles and to push through difficult circumstances. Encouraging words fuel our confidence in Christ to press on.
Recently I received a note from a friend who thanked me for sending him a copy of my newest book. He wrote, “Keep your good writing active. You have a good gift for the art.” Those words of encouragement made my day!
How will you use your words today?
DAVID L. CHANCEY
Is a pastor serving at McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. www.mcdonoughroad.org. Find out more about Dr. Chancey’s writing ministry at www.davidchancey.com and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.