Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 5-8 NIV
An 1872 edition of John Wesley’s Sermons includes his message to the early Methodist Band Societies on “The Cure of Evil Speaking.” Wesley required it to be read annually among all Methodist groups. It is still widely available and can even be ordered on Amazon.
What is the message that still reverberates through generations? It’s about the power of our words. Wesley draws the term “evil speaking” from Titus 3:2 “speak evil of no one, be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
As a kid growing up in church, I had heard multiple times about the sin of using foul language, especially anything that took the Lord’s name in vain. Wesley was not as concerned about that. But he believed all Methodists needed an annual reminder that our words are powerful tools. The Psalms say they have the power to build and the power to destroy. Wesley must have experienced (as any pastor does) the power of words to build up community or to destroy community.
TIME FOR REFLECTION
- Have you shared widely and negatively about someone else’s reputation?
- Can you sense the moment where you are about to “speak evil” of someone not present, and hold your tongue?
- Have you experienced the destruction n of someone else speaking negatively of you?
- What else does the Holy Spirit have to say to you about the power of your words to create or destroy?