Week of March 27, 2013

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

There are certain passages in the Bible that bear reading in every season of life. Here is one I would commend to you: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone among you be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19). James goes on to compare the tongue, a small part of the human body, to the bit that controls a horse and the rudder that guides a large sailing vessel. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-8). “Words are loaded pistols,” said Jean- Paul Sartre. James believed that our words could both curse and bless, and we all know that this is powerfully true. Blaise Pascal said, “Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them, and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. Kind words also produce their image on human souls; and a beautiful image it is. They smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer.”

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” teaches the Proverb. We all know of times when the right word, at the right time, from just the right person came to us as a balm, a word of life itself. Words have great power to heal and to bless. Each Sunday we conclude worship with the benediction, which means literally, the “good word.” It is always a word of blessing. Winston Churchill sustained a whole nation with his words during the two months in which London was bombed each night by German air raids. And Abraham Lincoln uttered the most healing words that our nation has ever heard in his Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

These splendid words by great orators should never cause us for a moment to forget how powerful and telling our own words can be. Ben Johnson said, “Language shows a person: speak, that I may see thee.” Our words betray who we are. They are the apparel in which the thoughts of our hearts are revealed, which is why we should always “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” We all have the capacity to use our words more judiciously, to use them to bless and to build up those who live in the shadow of our influence. I still remember words of encouragement and affirmation that my father spoke to me and draw upon the strength of his love, which so often came through the medium of his words. I work and pray to see to it that my own children and grandchildren will recall my words to them with gratitude and will find sustenance and encouragement in them. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise rebuke to a listening ear” (Proverbs 25:11). Give great care to the words that you speak. They are a vital part of the legacy of your life. And never forget that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord our God shall endure forever.”

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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