Focal Passage: James 3:1-18
“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through…”
Perhaps you recognize the words above as lyrics from the
musical “My Fair Lady” from a scene in which Eliza explodes in anger over all
the pretty words that have been spoken to her with little action.
In today’s lesson James writes in a similar vein. He deals
with the issue of words and how they are used. He warns those who answer the
call to teaching — “Be careful what you say and be careful to do what you say.”
In Ecclesiasticus 14:1 we read, “Blessed is the man who has
not offended with his tongue.” Our words can build up or tear down another in
an instant. Sometimes our words can convey a positive reality, but the tone
sets a completely opposite reality. Sometimes language can appear innocent, yet
be destructive in its use.
In Rwanda there are three tribes: Tutsi, Hutu and Twa (or
pigmy). In the language of Rwanda there are numerous classes of nouns. Within
these classes there is a human class, numerous thing classes, place classes,
and inanimate object classes. Sadly because the Twa are disliked by the Tutsi
and Hutu people, much of the terminology used to refer to them is found in the
thing and inanimate class, rather than human class of nouns. Also, in the past
much evangelism done by the various Christian denominations in Rwanda neglected
the Twa people because they were seen not as people, but things!
James writes, “With the tongue we praise our Lord, and with
it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth
come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (3:9-10). How often
have we heard or maybe said, after a holy time of worship, that the service was
too long, or a testimony was too emotional, or the music was not to our liking,
or “I didn’t get anything out of today’s service!” Decisions were made and
God’s Spirit blessed but there always seems to be someone quick to dampen or
kill what blessed others. Oh, the fiery and strong power of our tongues!
What does it require in order to speak with self-control and
purity? James responds, “Wisdom which is not from below — earthy, unspiritual
and demonic, but heavenly (from the breath of God) which is pure enough to
approach God, in right relationship with God and men, sweetly reasonable,
responsively submissive, merciful and fruitful (bearing fruit from mercy
reflective of the Lord’s heart), unwavering in mind, and truly genuine.” Of
such comes a harvest of righteousness and not empty kernels of deedless words.