Monday, May 18, 2015

Words

The Apostle James was not one to mince words.  In the book attributed to him, we read:

 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”  (James 3:9-10, NIV)

In a first century society built on oral communication, the one who proclaimed this message (probably orally before it was written down) knew how powerful words can be.  Contrary to the old adage--“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”—words do hurt.  Hurtful and malicious words degrade and demean people made in God’s image.  Words break the heart and the spirit.  They also can inflame passions that lead to violence. Words matter.

Although spoken words have great power, we have added another dimension in the 21st century—the words conveyed by social media.  Many of us fail to think before we put something in a text, and e-mail, a Tweet, or a Facebook comment. Sometimes we realize that we have been misunderstood or, more likely, we have been understood and offended someone.  Add to this the fact that once a word is launched into cyberspace it will live until the end of digital communication and the impact multiplies exponentially.

What would James have to say to us today about the words that we both speak and write?  A keen student of the Hebrew Bible, he might remind us of the prayer of Psalm 19:14 (NRSV):
 
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” 

Words still matter.


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