In 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea, hurling hundreds of people into its icy waters. Each captain of the ships could’ve taken evasive action, but they refused to yield to the other ship. Their inflated view of their own agenda created a swirling vortex of suffering and death for the people on both ships.
“The authorities said 398 people, all Soviet citizens, appeared to have drowned; 116 bodies were recovered, and 282 passengers were listed as missing. The authorities also said that both vessels’ captains knew for 45 minutes that they were on a collision course but ignored warnings, and that the captain of the Admiral Nakhimov abandoned his bridge minutes before the crash.” [New York Times]
So often our relationships become captured in the vortex of suffering because we get stuck in the muck of pride. Our words become captured in the net of desires that feed our ego but damage the ones we love. We all experience it, but we can’t excuse it or ignore it. We need to change course.
God uses our words to build healthy relationships. Remember what the writer of Proverbs wrote:
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV)
James helps us understand more about the nature of a “wholesome tongue.” Through the pen of James, God shows us the heavenly words that He uses to build satisfying, strong relationships.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17, ESV)
Followers of Jesus have been filled by the Spirit so that we can experience supernatural conversations inspired by heaven. But first, James talks about conversations that are not heavenly.
1. Words that are snared by the Net of Ego.
James teaches us that our drive for personal glory does not produce words that are wise. When we have a ferocious desire to set our opinion above all others, then we will use words that lack the blessing of God’s wisdom. That’s what “bitter envy” is all about. When we try to exalt ourselves above another, then we will use words that lack God’s blessing. That’s what “selfish ambition” is all about. We’re trying to get something for ourselves and for our own glory.
Words are not wise when tooled for personal glory. In fact, James cautions us in verse 15. When arrogance and ambition infect our speech, we use words inspired by the devil himself. The more we use the words snared by the net of our ego, the further we push ourselves away from God’s wisdom and healthy relationships.
2. Words that are sparked by Heaven.
In verse 17, James now shows us what heavenly communication looks like. When our words are sparked by heaven, then they are pure — without sin or evil intent. They are peaceable — seeking the best in life for others. They are gentle — not seeking to break the soul of someone and willing to bend to the needs of another. They are full of steadfast love and produce great things in a person’s life. They are truly a tree of life for those around us.
We want to please our King Jesus with our words. Heavenly words promote the righteousness and peace of God in our relationships. It doesn’t mean that what we say is always easy to hear, but it means that we are seeking God’s glory and agenda in our relationships and showing it with our words. When our words reflect the heart of Jesus like that, then we will set a course for our relationships to be wrapped in heavenly joy and contentment.
Before we use our words today, stop, take a breath, and pray:
“Lord, are my words sparked by heaven or captured in the net of my ego?”