In reference to the words we use, James asks his readers a rhetorical question – “Does the fountain send from the same outlet sweet and bitter water?” (James 3:11 BBE)
When James used the word “bitter” he was describing words that are harsh and used with ill intent. Bitter words destroy unity, morale and trust. One of the quickest ways to destroy unity, morale and trust in the church is with the bitter words of gossip.
How can we keep from using the bitter words of gossip?
1) When you hear about gossip address it. When you hear someone spreading gossip about someone else ask them if they ever talked to the person that they’re talking about. If not, there’s a very good chance that what they’re saying is wrong! If you hear about someone gossiping about you, especially if it’s a brother or sister in Christ, go ask them about it (Matthew 18:15-17).
2) Think about the way it would make you feel if someone were spreading whatever you’re saying about you or your loved ones. Some people have no problem with gossip unless it’s about them…and if that’s the problem we’ve got, then we need to keep the shoe on the other foot.
3) If someone tells you something personal, keep it personal! Don’t go around acting like the church “TMZ.”
4) Live in a way so when someone says something negative about you, nobody will believe it (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Some Christians love to give “impressions” and then get mad when the “impression” makes its mark.
5) Get busy rowing the boat and you won’t have time to rock it! I will always be convinced that if a person is truly interested in making the church a better place to grow, to learn and to help others, then they won’t make messes that they’ll have to clean up.
When James used the word “sweet” he was talking about using words that bless (vs. 9) and benefit the hearers. The word sweet is translated from the Greek word Glukus pronounced gloo-koos (can you hear glucose in there?). The basic idea is that sweet words are words that refresh and give energy.
How can we remember to use words that are sweet?
1) By being merciful with the way we talk. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV) Paul isn’t talking about the kind of salt that goes on wounds and burns. He’s talking about the kind of salt that’s let people know you care.
2) By strengthening others with the way we talk. “The lips of the righteous feed many,…” (Proverbs 10:21 NKJV) What would our words do to us if we had to listen to them all of the time? Would they pull the life right out of us, or put the life right in us?
3) By complimenting others with the way we talk. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11 NKJV) Do you know what it feels like to be genuinely complemented? Why wouldn’t we want to share a feeling like that?
We have all made mistakes with the words we use (James 3:8), but the question is are we learning from those mistakes and striving to do better? If we had to eat our words – or rather, when we have to eat them, how are they going to taste? (Matthew 12:36,37) James says we’re going to have to decide what kind of spring we’re going to have, so which will it be?
If you would like to check out more thoughts on James 3:7-12 (particularly verse 11) then continue reading here at http://keltonburgpreacher.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/how-do-our-words-taste