Our words can be both creative and destructive, helpful or harmful. There is great power in the words we speak. There is an old story about man who lived in a highland village in Scotland. He told a tale about another man he didn’t much care for. When the story got around the village, it utterly destroyed the man. His family, his job and his integrity were all devastated by tale and he was a ruined and defeated man forced to relocate. In time, the fellow who passed the story along discovered the story was false. He had helped to destroy an innocent man with his tongue. He went to his pastor and said, “Pastor, I have destroyed a man with my words,” and he told the whole story. “Please,” he said, “I am sorry — how can I be forgiven this sin?” The pastor told the man it was not so simple, and told him to take a bag of feathers and place one in the front yard of every house in the village. Although the fellow thought this to be a strange request for a pastor to make, he really wanted forgiveness, so he followed the instructions to the letter. At last he came back to the pastor and said, “I have done all you asked. May I now be forgiven?” “Not yet,” the pastor replied. “You must first retrace your steps and bring back to me every feather you placed in the village!” “But — I could never do that; the wind has carried the feathers away!” “Yes,” the pastor said, “and in like manner have your words destroyed an innocent man!” Dietrich Bonhoeffer a German theologian writes: “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively, if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.” Bonhoeffer discovered if we hold our tongues and control our gossip about other people, then we come to discover everyone has a place in the community — strong and weak, wise and foolish, gifted and ungifted. Slowly, we begin to see these differences are not incentives for talking and judging and condemning each other, but are instead causes for rejoicing in one another and serving one another. In the end, we realize each member of the community has been made in the image of Christ, and each person has a place.
Scripture Reading: James 3:8-10
“but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters,* this ought not to be so.”
What is the purpose of gossip?
What does it mean to be created in the likeness of God?
How is holding one’s tongue a special ministry?
Prayer: Holy God, remind me that you create everyone in your image and help me be more welcoming; there is room for all. Gift me with their presence. Amen.