There are things for us to do now we are believers in Jesus, and, sure, choosing words carefully is one of them; kind, loving, caring, encouraging, edifying, counselling, and consistent (James 3.1-12).
Imagine that Jesus was taking another walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.27) with the New Testament in hand, how would He explain this part of James in relation to Himself?
I’m gonna suggest that He would say this – Words of life are found in one place only.
In John 6 Jesus said
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.
Basically, you will never tame your own tongue in your own power and never.
Edwin Blum wrote that
The Holy Spirit, poured out in the world, gives life (salvation) to those who believe. Without the Holy Spirit, man (flesh) is utterly unable to understand Jesus’ person and His works [and then act accordingly].
Jesus continues and says
The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
He was talking about eternal life, how it is only found in Him, that we must partake of His life and work and sacrificed body to truly inherit eternal life, and that we must look beyond the physical rituals of religion to the words that He is saying and the things He is teaching. His Words carry meaning and truth, and because this is hard, some left Him. We read,
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
So He asked the 12, are you leaving as well? He had said some tough truths and people left Him…imagine that. Do you know what the 12 said to Him?
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus’ words lead to life. No one else, nobody else’s words lead to eternal life.
It’s so easy to look at passages like James 3.1-12 and be very moral: You need to be in control of your tongue and your speech. Words are powerful, words can heal, words can cut down, words matter, your words matter.
That’s not incorrect, but it’s incomplete.
Rather than be all moral and preach-y, we ought to look at passages like this with a Christ-centred lens: Your words do matter, but Jesus has the words of eternal life.
So yes, work hard to choose your words carefully, but ultimately let us rest in the promises of eternal life found in the words of Jesus.