Consider this short poem entitled “Power of Words:”


A careless word may kindle strife

A cruel word may wreak a life

A bitter word may hate instill

A brutal word may smite and kill


A gracious word may smooth the way

A joyous word may light the day

A timely word may lessen stress

A loving word may heal and bless

(Source: – author unknown)


What do your words say about you?

That is James’ question in James 3:1-12.

We will look at the first portion of this today, and examine verses 6-12 next week.


We All Stumble with our Words.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:1–2, ESV)


Here, the word MANY is emphatic.  In the Greek text, it is the first word in verse 1 and also verse 2 and is meant to get our attention to the comparison James is making.  Translated word for word without allowing for the differences between Green and English, the word-by-word translation would sound something like this: “many teachers NO, there should not be…. Many ways to stumble there are.”  Now we wouldn’t translate it this way, not unless you like sounding like Yoda!  I mention this because James is making a comparison between the fact that there should not be many teachers, but there are many ways in which we all stumble.  The biggest and most glaring way is represented by the words that we use which express the true condition of our hearts.

The word STUMBLE

The Greek word means “to fall.”  It is used 4x in the NT

  1. Concerning ISRAEL.  “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” (Romans 11:11, ESV)
  2. Concerning failure to keep the whole law……“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:10, ESV)
  3. NEVER FALL.  “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.(2 Peter 1:10, ESV)


Another insight we gain into the way that this word was used during the first century is to examine how this Greek word was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which is called the Septuagint.  There, the word “stumble” from James 3 is translated ENSNARED (Deuteronomy 7:25), DEFEATED (1 Samuel 4:2), BEATEN (2 Samuel 2:17), and DISMAYED (2 Kings 19:26).


It is clear that the stumbling to which James is speaking of is much more than a simple slip of the tongue.  James is warning us of words that express MORAL FAILURE.


James’ Frequently addresses our WORDS to show us if we are walking with God.  His reference to our speech is found in every chapter of the book of James. 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19, ESV)

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14, ESV)

James 3:1-12 (our passage in this sermon)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11, ESV)

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12, ESV)


This emphasis continues in the book of James.  So today I would like to examine 4 TRUTHS about the POWER of OUR WORDS

1.  The Power of our Words is Disproportionate to the Comparative Size of our Tongue.

There are Three Illustrations of this truth.

James 3:3.  A small man can control a large horse with just a small bridle.

James 3:4.  A large ship is controlled by a small rudder.  The Greco‑Roman world had large ships. Paul had been aboard a grain ship which carried 276 passengers plus cargo. Josephus records that he was on a ship with 600 passengers. He describes its dimensions as 180’ by 65’ by 44’.


James 3:5.  A large fire is started by a tiny spark. 


2.  Our Words Reveal What Our Heart Contains

Jesus made this clear in addressing the Pharisees.  ““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:33–34, ESV)


3.  Our Words will bring Condemnation or Reward 

Following this passage in Matthew, Jesus continues and tells the Pharisees that their words will bring condemnation.  “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:36–37, ESV)

Reward.  “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, ESV)


4.         Our Words either destroy or bless.   

Destruction  “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10, ESV)

Blessing  “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV)


Ken Blanchart and Barbara Glands did some training with three thousand front‑line workers at grocery stores and retail outlets across the country. They talked about the power of words and how what you say really does make a difference in people’s lives.

A month later, Barbara said she got a call from a guy named Johnny, who was at the training. Johnny told her early on, “I’m nineteen years old. I have Downs Syndrome. I work as a bagger at a grocery store.” He said, “I went back to the store and I didn’t know how to apply your statements. I liked your talk but I didn’t know what to do with it. I went home and talked with my dad and got an idea. My dad and I sat down at the computer and everyday we come up with a statement that is affirming of people, that’s encouraging. If I can’t find one in a little quote book, I’ll make it up. We’ll type it up six different times on the computer. I print off fifty sheets and cut all of them.”

So he has three hundred of these quotes. Then, every night, Johnny signs each one of them personally. Then the next day at the grocery store he puts this stack right by where he bags the groceries. He gets everyone’s groceries bagged up. Then on the last sack he puts the quote of the day, the encouraging word, in the sack. He makes sure he looks them in the eye and says, “I put something very special for you in this sack. I hope it will brighten your day.”

He’ll take them out to their car and help them load up. Johnny does this every single day.

Barbara said after about a month she got a phone call from the manager of that grocery store. He said, “Barbara I can’t believe it. Something really amazing is beginning to happen. I was walking around the store and I noticed while we had lots of checkers at the checkout line, there was no one there but maybe one or two people. The line where Johnny was doing bagging went all the way back to the frozen food section.”

He said, “I would tell them over the intercom that there were other lines you could move over to. We would walk down the line and tell people there were other lines open. People would just look at us and say, ‘No, we’ll wait because we want Johnny’s encouraging word for the day.’

One woman came by and grabbed the supervisor. She said, ‘I used to only come to the grocery store once a week or once every other week. Now I come by almost every day. I buy something just so I can get Johnny’s encouraging word for the day.’”

About a month later, the store manager called Barbara and said, “It’s changing our entire culture of our store. Even in the floral department when a flower was broken they used to just throw it away. Now they walk out into the lines, on their own initiative, they pin it onto elderly women or young girls. They brighten their day.”



There are a lot of people at that grocery store but the most important person is Johnny, the bagger. He’s speaking words of life and words of life can change a culture. If it can happen at a grocery store it can happen in a church.

This is a place where we should speak words of life to one another.



The Dangers of Words with Social Media.

According to Experian, U.S. smartphone owners aged 18 to 24 send 2,022 texts per month on average — 67 texts on a daily basis — and receive another 1,831.‑of‑the‑day‑number‑of‑texts‑sent‑2013‑3#ixzz32fwD0QXo


By Heather Cicchese  | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT   MAY 16, 2014

Dave Griffin sat down at STARBUCKS with a young lady and asked her for a second date.  Unknown to his companion, Griffin had invited her for coffee as part of an assignment for a Boston College class whose instructor, Kerry Cronin, gives extra credit to any student who will go on a date.


The reason? Because most of them don’t know how, Cronin says.


It’s not surprising, says Cronin. This is a generation that has grown up with relatively low expectations in the realm of happily every after. Theirs is a world where most embrace group activities, punctuated with the periodic hookup, and communicate largely in digital bursts of 140‑250 characters instead of in person.


The Sins of Social Media




Unwholesome words



Slothfulness (we fail to communicate because we are too lazy)





Our words are a window to our soul.  They reveal what we are truly thinking and by expressing our thoughts, they bring condemnation or reflect the blessing that comes from God.


If your words are angry, hostile, untrue, unfaithful, bitter, sarcastic, discouraging, blasphemous or any other number of sinful tendencies, it is a reflection that your heart is not right with God.


The only way to cleanse our speech is to cleanse our hearts.  This happens through confession, repentance and faith in Christ.