May 22, 2012

Think Before You Speak, and Thoughts on Messages in the Media (Book of James)

Have you ever said something and immediately wished you could take it back?  Have you ever joked with someone about something only to find out they were actually very sensitive about that?  Or have you ever said something that wasn't very nice about about a friend to another person?  I know I certainly have.  I am usually pretty good about keeping my mouth shut because I am a more reserved person in general, but every now and then something slips out that I wish I hadn't said or even thought.  I find this typically happens during times of frustration, tiredness, not thinking before speaking, or just being influenced by what others around me are saying.  However, I really have to work on what I say because something small and thoughtless can have a detrimental effect: 

"In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.  Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.  The tongue is also a fire.  It exists among our members as a word of malice, defiling the whole body, and setting the course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna." 
-James 3:5-6

I'm sure we can all think of something (good or bad) that someone said to us during childhood that has stuck with us throughout the years.  I was a dorky, picked on child, and there are definitely things that have had a lasting impact on me.  On the other hand, I received positive comments from teachers that also had a huge impact and pushed me into working hard at school, leading me where I am today.  I am sure that we could all agree that what we say, both good and bad, can have huge implications for another person's life.  

How can we use our words for good?  There are plenty of examples in the Bible: nourishing and encouraging others (Proverbs 10:21), praising the Lord (Philippians 2:11), rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving (1 Thesasalonians 5:16-18),  healing (Proverbs 12:18), and counseling and advice (Proverbs 31:26).  There is a lot of potential to positively impact those around us through what we say.  

The part of this study that really hit home for me was the reference to Matthew 12:36-37: "I tell you, on the day of judgement people will render an account for every careless word they speak.  By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."  One day God will hold us accountable for everything we have said.  He hears every word that comes out of our mouth, good and bad.  It is kind of scary to think about how many bad things I have probably said in the past that God knows and remembers.  I am going to make a more conscious effort to remind myself of Jesus's presence in my daily life.  I need to think about if my words would bring him glory or if they would sadden and disappoint him.  In addition, Sirach 28: 24-26 says that we should take care to guard our mouths like we we would guard our treasures.  It's better to listen and reflect first before immediately saying what comes to our mind.  Psalm 39:2-3 shows that sometimes it is best to just keep silent: "I said, 'I will watch my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will set a curb on my mouth.' Dumb and silent before the wicked, I refrained from any speech."   

What we fill our lives with also has a big impact on what we say, as we see in Matthew 12:34-35: "You brood of viper, how can you say good things when you are evil?  For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil."  Basically, what we put in is what comes back out. Our minds and words have to be filled with good things in order to speak good things. Jeff Cavins gave two examples from the Bible of things we can do to help fill our minds and hearts with good things:

"Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
-Philippians 4:8

All it takes it turning on the tv or radio for a few minutes to see how much in our culture is not true, honorable, just, pure, or lovely.  I'd be really curious to know other people's thoughts on this, as I have been thinking a lot about it after Melody's post about music and all the hype over the 50 Shades of Grey book (which I don't personally plan on reading).  Do you think that general messages and words that we hear through tv, movies, music, and books have an impact on what we say and do?  Do you make any efforts to monitor what you are watching or listening to?  Where do we draw the line between watching, reading, or listening to something just for fun and what has the potential to negatively affect us?  

"Let the words of my mouth meet with your favor, keep the thoughts of my heart before you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer."
- Psalm 19:14



  1. Talking less and more plainly and simply was one of my lenten practices. There are a couple of books that I have on deck for reading: The Power of a Woman's Words, and Taming Your Tongue. So this is something that is very much on my mind! This sounds like a great study. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I will need to look into those books!

    2. I really hope I can remember that for lent next year! Great idea.

  2. Phil 4:8 is one of my favorite verses. And yes! I totally believe it's necessary to filter what we watch, what we listen to, what we see. I started paying more attention to this we had children and they grew older. I think we get desensitized to all the crap. It's when we take a step back for a while that it really seems to assault the senses even more. It's a challenge to watch tv, to listen to the radio and even take kids to rent a movie - so much junk. I only recently heard about the book 50 Shades and I definitely won't be reading it. Oh and I have, most certainly, stuck my foot in my mouth!!

    1. I love Phil 4:8 as well! I definitely agree that we get desensitized to everything and we start to think it's normal. I can imagine having kids would make you much more aware of all of the negative messages that we see and hear.

  3. So true! Definitely been on my mind a lot lately. I'm working hard on just remaining silent. I've learned I cannot control others but I also do not have to participate in the discussion. I will also NOT be reading the book. At least five women at work are reading it now. Avoiding that occasion of sin. I've become much more sensitive to profane language since I have started noticing my words. Hard to avoid when it seems to be a favorite hobby for some people. Of course...I've messed up more than I should. I've found that Confession has helped a lot.
    Sorry for my novel length note.

    1. Don't be sorry, I enjoyed reading your comment! :) I am working on being silent as well. I wonder if I will ever get to the point where I can defend something/someone instead of just being silent. And yes, confession helps, which is a good thing because I already slipped once since I wrote this post!