The Power of One Word…


I grew up a pastor’s kid; ministry was obviously all around me. Because of this, I have heard of and seen good and bad ministries. More specifically, I have seen poor and proper leadership in ministries. Frequently, the poor leadership is triggered by inadequate discernment to know when to speak and when to listen. I have seen many leaders fail by this specific inadequacy. We ought to be very careful of how we use our tongue and acknowledge the power it contains.

See, in ministry relationships are exceptionally vital. In previous posts, I have emphasized the truth that serving Jesus is to serve people and to serve people, we must know people. Do not forget this truth before I dive deeper… To be able to speak into someone‘s life, except for the very rare occasion, a loving (not tolerant) relationship should be present.

I am writing this to enlighten people on when and when not to speak so better relationships may be made and maintained. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is in James 3. He specifically speaks of the power of the tongue and instructs us to be aware of its power. In James 3:1-12, he is instructing us to slow down our desire to be teachers so that we may not strive against and offend people.
Too often, we try to speak into someone’s life when we have no idea what he or she is experiencing. This is like trying to put a baby on a treadmill… it just doesn’t work and is stupid. In a similar way we would be judged for putting a baby on a treadmill, we will be judged for our speech. James takes it one step further and states that those who are teachers of the Word, will incur a stricter judgment. Those who seek to teach always have more responsibility.

This is a great reminder to us that we need to be careful about how we use our tongue. It contains so much power and causes so much destruction if not used carefully. James 3:3-5 gives us three pretty cool examples of the power of our tongue…

  • Horse BitDestructive power
    1. When we put a bit in a horse’s mouth, that bit controls the whole body of the horse. We must understand that the horses body is powerful and can hurt us very severely if we are not careful. We need to control our tongue the same way, as it is also awfully destructive.
  • Ship RudderDirective power
    1. Ships are often huge vessels yet controlled by a small rudder. We must remember that these rudders are controlled by the choice of the caption of the boat. Wherever he choices to direct the boat, it will go. The tongue is similar where we have choice of what we say and don’t say. Be careful of where you direct your energy of words.
  • Forest FireDynamic power
    1. It is amazing how something so small can lead to something so massive. James illustrates this with a forest fire sparking from the light of a match. I like to compare this to being caught in a lie. For some reason, we start off with dumb little lies and then we get caught in them causing more lies to spew out of our mouths.
    2. One word can also cause major problem between people. We must have discernment on what we say and when we say and whom we say it to.

From this we can take away minimally three principles (7-8):

  • Believers should strive to have absolute control over their tongue.
  • Believers should fear loose lips.
  • Believers should respect the power of the tongue.

If we follow these three principles and act differently based off the knowledge ascertained it would substantially benefit our relationships with people. Discernment is extremely vital in leadership. Sometimes we need to substitute our response from talking to just being present. Presence matters.

If we don’t follow, well then… it’s the equivalent of pushing that relationship off a cliff after stabbing its heart.

I want to leave you with these five simple questions you should always ask yourself mentally before speaking…
5 Questions to THINK before Speaking:

1) Is it Truth?

2) Is it Helpful?

3) Is it Inspirational?
4) Is it Necessary?

5) Is it Kind?

General rule of thumb when giving advice or any instruction… If it benefits you and not the receiver of the advice, it is probably doesn’t need to be said.

This also is helpful advice for the receiver… Keep an eye out for one-sided advice. If it benefits the person giving the advice to you… be very careful to follow that advice, as they aren’t fully looking to benefit you. Advice should be given selflessly, not selfishly.


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