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Caution! Caution!

Read James 3:1-10

They are fun to read, aren’t they? Those warning labels that make us wonder, “what were they thinking”. Here are three examples that I found.

  1. ‘Suitable for outdoor use.’  Found on a rain gauge.

  2. ‘For use by trained personnel only.’  On a can of air freshener.

  3. ‘Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.’  On a box of rat poison.

Yet, many warnings on products should be taken into account. For example, it is prudent to where a mask or use a product in a well-ventilated room when it is toxic. It isn’t a bad idea to test a product on a small swatch of fabric to discern if using it could discolor carpeting or an article of clothing either. Sometimes, paying attention to a warning can prevent headaches, real or figurative.


The Bible has warnings too, and unlike the silly ones, when we are wise, we pay attention to them. For today, let’s consider our speech and the warning God gives us concerning the power that we have been given through our words. In James 3:1-10, the Lord reminds us that our words can be as dangerous as a fire. In our part of the country which tends to be dry, we know all about fire and how quickly the flames can destroy. I recall last summer, watching a news story about a rancher. He was talking about how he and other ranchers would watch for any hint of fire, scanning the horizon. Even the smallest glint of a fire needed to be dealt with and stopped. How like our words. James says that the fire that can be caused by our speech can be used by the Evil One. If not stopped, more and more destruction can occur. Proverbs 16:27 warns us that our words can scorch like a fire.


Yet, James gives even another reason for those of us who belong to Jesus to heed the warning concerning our speech. We have the Lord living within us, 1 Corinthians 6:19. We are showing by our lives, including the words we speak, what the Lord is like. We are to have a walk that more and more resembles Jesus’, 1 John 2:6, and therefore our actions, as well as our words are important. James paints the picture of a fountain. Can you imagine being really thirsty and leaning over a drinking fountain only to get a mouthful of salty water? What if the fountain was unpredictable? Sometimes, the water would be cold, refreshing and sweet. At other times, warm salty water would come flowing out.


What a challenge for us. If we permit the Holy Spirit to control us, we will speak words that bless. No wonder Ephesians 5:18 exhorts us to be continually filled by Him. Yet, if we allow our flesh to override God’s promptings, our words will be like that brackish water, not helpful to those who are in earshot of them, Ephesians 4:29. Even though our speech is sometimes inconsistent, there is good news because Jesus isn’t surprised when we fall short. He has made provision for it. He continually cleanses us, 1 John 1:7 and enables us by His power to become more and more like that water fountain that consistently refreshes those who come for a drink. There are many biblical examples of words that were refreshing as sweet water.


In Genesis 50:20-21, Joseph paired his kind actions toward his brothers with honest, kind and reassuring words. He could have withheld this from them. After all, their father was now dead. Did they deserve kindness? No, but their brother spoke words that were gracious to them, even though their actions had been deserving of rebuke.

In John 1:17, we are told that Jesus was filled with grace and truth. Joseph’s words were like that. Truthful, yet wrapped in graciousness.


Lord, thank You for Your warning concerning our words. Help us to refresh others through our speech, Proverbs 11:25.

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