This past year wildfires in California were some of the deadliest in recent history. Fires destroyed thousands of homes, forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate, and left many communities questioning whether or not rebuilding was even possible.
And in the midst of the disaster, a forecast of strong winds, no rain, and low humidity became a recipe for the disaster to just keep on going. With the critical conditions, new fires can quickly spread and create new and worse problems.
James warned us about this same kind of problem - not with forest fires but with our words - when he wrote, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”
One spark spreads like a wildfire. One subtle comment becomes defining to how we see ourselves. One reminder of that sin that you thought was in the past, and it gets put on repeat. Grace gets shoved to the side for whatever solution makes us feel the best.
Sometimes it’s even true words, take God’s as an example. It’s often God’s own commands that get so misused and abused that people are reminded in a thousand different ways that they’ll never be enough. It’s as though in our dried up, low humidity world that is desperate for some hope instead has a bunch of people pouring gas on the fire.
James believes that kind of fire comes from hell.
When people have the powerful words of God in their hands, they have the power to give life, to heal, to forgive, and to make new.
But instead they often do something else.
Maybe it’s for this reason, James suggests that “not everyone should teach.”
Maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong. Maybe the Church has ignored James warning and now we are witnessing the repercussions of what happens when people who shouldn’t teach teach. Maybe we are witnessing people walk out of the church not because they are offended by truth, but because they’ve been hurt with words that have little to do with what Jesus wants to do.
But what if there was a different word? What if there was a more powerful word? What if there was a word that could bring life to those who were hurting?
In Matthew 8, a centurion experiences what happens when Jesus’ words do their work:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
The centurion is familiar with the power of words. When he speaks, people listen. He’s a man of authority and he’s learned that if he needs something done, he only has to speak the word. He understands this about Jesus. Jesus has an authority that other people don’t have. And the centurion recognizes it enough to suggest that Jesus, “only say the word.”
But this isn’t how most of the miracles work.
All the miracles of Jesus are miraculous. But usually they involve more than words. Think about it, Jesus heals lepers while touching them. Jesus heals a man born blind, but when he does it he uses mud and saliva. Even the paralytic who gets carried in on a mat, he’s still brought to Jesus.
But in this miracle, the servant isn’t even in close proximity to Jesus. And with nothing more than a word - Jesus speaks and the servant is healed.
@@When Jesus speaks, what he says is going to happen, happens.@@ And when Jesus speaks, his words have the power to undo the damage of a thousand other words.