I didn’t mean that!
How many times have those words raced out of your mouth? Your heart vainly hopes to intercept the deadly verbal missiles launched from that same mouth only moments before. Despite your desperate attempt to stop the flight of those missiles, it is too late. They have found their targets. Devastating damage has been done. In shame, you realize you can’t undo your careless words.
In James 3, the Holy Spirit reminds you just how ugly and devastating careless words can be. These words are like the tiny floating spark that leaps from an unguarded fire and ignites a whole forest. This spark is from the fires of hell!
So, if you can’t get back your destructive words, what do you do? Is there no hope?
James urges you to walk the gentle path of wisdom. Turn from your selfish carelessness. Give up your slavery to the fires of hell. Speak instead with the power of meekness. The word for meek is used to describe a powerful war horse who has become submissive to the wishes of his rider. This means you can take what was out of control — the spewing of hurtful words in all directions — and embrace the power of wisdom in meekness. Instead of the destructive wisdom from below, you can live the wisdom from above.
The opposite of careless words are thoughts that have been captured by wisdom from above. Such thoughts are about purity, peace, gentleness. Such thoughts are open to reason and full of mercy and grace (James 3:17). Such thoughts produce words of compassion, not words of destruction.
You see when careless firebrands fly from your mouth you display wisdom that is ugly, demonic. Your concern is not for God’s honor but for your own.
How do you turn from this ugliness?
First, take the Holy Spirit’s description at face value. These careless words are born in the fires of hell. Your careless, angry, destructive words say that you care most about yourself and little for God and even less for those around you!
Secondly, repent and keep your mouth shut until you are confident that wisdom from above will govern your thoughts and then your words. Seriously, keep your mouth shut! Don’t trust those angry thoughts that draw their power from wounded pride and the fires of hell. Don’t give into self pity. Be quiet and trust God. If you have to say “I didn’t mean it”, you have said too much.
Thirdly, cry out to God in prayer for the wisdom from above that James describes. God has no interest in helping you protect yourself. He wants you to follow Christ’s example. Don’t let any words come out of your mouth that are not gracious and peace loving.
Stop igniting fires of destruction. Instead sow peace with the words of your mouth.