By Levi Warren and Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read James 1v22-25 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Read this overview
Jacob, the author of the New Testament letter we call James, has some pretty intense things to say to his readers. He says that, for a follower of Jesus, faith is inseparable from action – that what we say we believe must be accompanied by deeds, or our faith is dead. And Jacob certainly doesn’t let our tongues off the hook! He also says how we speak to others is proof-positive of what’s building up in our hearts, whether cursing or blessing, death or life. Are our hearts overflowing with the destroying powers of hell or the life that abounds in the Kingdom of God?
The words we say to others, and the words spoken over us by others, have a genuine impact, both on our lives and theirs. The impact of our words is especially significant to keep in mind because, as Jacob reminds us, we are all created in the image of God. Our aim should be to recognize and affirm this image in ourselves and others. When we do this, we bless others, and in the process, we worship and bless the God who created them.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
- Recall a time when someone spoke to you in a way that felt like a curse (words that are harmful, painful, damaging, and/or lies). How did those words impact your life at that moment? How did they impact your life in the long term? (Be as specific as is comfortable/appropriate).
- Take a moment to reflect on the values and habits you’ve developed and embraced when it comes to your words. Can you articulate how you hope to use your words and how not to use your words? If not, why is that? How do you struggle to live out your values about your words?
Talk about this week’s Practice as a Community:
This week, set aside three separate times (15-30 minutes each) for quiet reflection and listening prayer. In these times, invite the Spirit to speak to you about the following three areas –
(If it’s helpful, do this with pen and paper at hand so you can journal the process.)
For your first time, ask the Spirit to speak openly and honestly to you about how you have struggled to control the things you say (remember, Jacob says we all struggle to tame our tongues). Maybe there are ways you use your words that you haven’t even realized are doing damage to those around you (i.e., sarcasm, complaining, criticizing, negativity). Allow the Spirit to gently bring up any areas you may be struggling with. If and when he does, follow up by asking how you and he can work together to bring that area of your tongue under control.
For your second time, ask the Spirit to bring to mind any moments where you have spoken hurtful words over another person that need to be addressed. Ask the Spirit to be very specific. (Remember that while the Spirit of Jesus does not condemn us, he does convict us for our growth and benefit. This practice is not about making us feel like a bad person. Instead, it’s about us working towards repentance and restoration in our relationships with others.) If the Spirit brings up a specific person you need to make amends with, ask for the wisdom on how best to move forward with confessing and creating space for reconciliation.
In your third and final time, ask the Spirit how you could grow using your words as an instrument of blessing. Speaking a blessing over someone can often feel scary or challenging, but those blessings can positively impact their life. Ask the Spirit to show you creative ways to become a person who speaks life instead of death. Then, ask the Spirit to bring a particular person(s) to mind that he wants you to speak blessing over. Ask for the courage to speak that blessing over them, and make a plan to do what the Spirit is asking you to do.
Be prepared to share your experience with your Community the next time you gather.
Close in prayer