Words of Wisdom: The power to brand
August 18, 2019
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Instructions: When using this material as a teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
Core Point: We are focusing on the words and actions of people as they follow Jesus as disciples. The salient point of this series is that as Christians we are called into community with other believers to be a holy nation representing the grace and love of God in the world by both word and deed.
Start point: The scripture focus is found in the Letter of James. This letter was written by James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church. The letter was probably written about 40–45 A.D. to Jewish Christians living outside Palestine. The theme of the letter calls the Christian to live by faith and be doers of God’s Word. It appears that the receivers of the letter were suffering persecution and living in poverty. They were in tremendous social and spiritual conflict while living in a worldly manner. Because of the challenges of the people, James encourages them to seek God’s wisdom and actively live their faith so the world sees their good deeds in Christ. James provides some practical ideas on how to live out faith.
Reflect on this Scripture:
James 3:5-10 Common English Bible (CEB)
4 Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. 5 In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly. Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. 6 The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell. 7 People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. 8 No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!
Proverbs 16:27 (NRSV)
27 Scoundrels concoct evil, and their speech is like a scorching fire.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from these passages?
From your recollection, what has the damage been like from the California fires over the past couple of years? What was the result for the people who lived through those fires?
How is the human tongue like the California fires?
How has your tongue branded someone positively or negatively?
What do you need to do to your tongue, or to the words you say, that will help build up instead of burn down?
James metaphorical words bring forth a strong truth: What you say can either build someone up or knock someone down, bless or curse. Last week, we dialogued about how from the heart the mouth speaks. Negative words and expression can reveal a negative heart. Our main scripture of the day forces us to recognize how much damage our words and expression from a negative heart can affect others. Our tongue can steer our big bodies to do verbal harm much like a ship is steered by a small rudder. The effect of negative words and expression on people is like a California wildfire that destroys miles of land. The image of fire is strong and practical in scripture. The territory of the biblical lands could get very dry, so when a fire was ignited it could spread quickly and damage a lot of property. Also, scripture gives the image of hell as a fiery inferno that destroys the soul, likewise, the tongue can be the destroyer of people’s self-esteem, heart, and soul. The tongue, like a fire, can rage out of control destroying everything in its path. Think on this, our negative words can brand another individual by categorizing them in certain ways that affect how the individual looks at him/herself and how others perceive that individual. Look at our culture today, you can see how the words coming out of some individuals show a negative heart and help create destruction in the lives of others. Our culture has become a promoter of negative and destructive words that divide people. As Christians, being in God’s likeness, we are called to give words of blessing and not cursing, edification and not destruction. Christians are to be representatives of God that bring peace, wisdom, and grace to every situation, in as much as we can. You have the power to bless or curse people through your words and expression.
Questions to Ponder:
Through our words, how does someone get branded negatively?
How do you see the negativity in our culture?
How can you change the negativity and words of fire burning our culture?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Memorize and internalize this scripture: Romans 12:9-10 (NRSV)
“9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
2. Think on what thoughts and word you can change in order to bring blessing? What can you do to make right some destructive words you have said to a certain individual?