If corrupt speech can set a hell fire going in the church corrupting the whole body, James 3:6 what is heavenly speech v17 like? We learned that proud, self-righteous speech v5 can cause life-long harm within the church. v6 Untamed corrupt speech is like a forest fire, a restless evil, a deadly poison. v7 The origin of such talk is the human heart and as James explains demonic temptation. v15 It reveals jealousy and selfish ambition. v14 The speaker is not necessarily able to control such speech, it is controlling him. The harm does not stop there it brings to the church disorder and every vile practice. v16 James’ warning is not limited to church leaders, it applies to all, however, it is of particular relevance to church leaders because of their responsibilities and the impact it will have on the whole body of Christ in the local church.
James’ explains how corrupt talk, stemming from selfish ambition can lead on to all kinds of other sin. This is of great relevance to the modern church. Where leaders have a belief in their own entitlement they can go on to exploit people for their own gains whether that is financial, sexual gratification or status. It can lead to bullying, the creation of factions, the exclusion of brothers and sisters, the repression of others gifts and spiritual growth, the ignoring or rejection of others’ needs. All of this can be hidden behind words that bless God making discernment such a necessary gift within the church. James is clear that a pure water spring cannot produce fresh water and salt water. v11
If heavenly speech is to rule then it must come from a pure source, the Holy Spirit, at work within our hearts and that is in direct contrast to the untamed passions that control us prior to faith in Christ. Heavenly speech is first of all meek, v13which is not the same as weak but does represent all of the self controlled expressions of the Holy Spirit’s character. Galatians 5:23 Meekness is not cowardice or lack of action, it comes from trusting in God. It arises when Christ has freed the person from the anxiety of self promotion.
Holy Spirit inspired speech is first of all pure. v17 It is filled with goodness and love. When one speaks in that way it brings with it peace. Peace with God, peace with each other and inner peace that comes from trusting in the Lord. Holy Spirit inspired speech is not aggressive speech that comes from self promotion, it is gentle and being open to reason allows for others to speak and bring their own needs and wisdom. Such speech reflects the mercy of God v17 that Jesus showed to perfection. His mercy was one that was not limited by the cost to himself. We can see the evidence of Christlike speech through the good things that come from it.
Heavenly speech is always sincere and does not favour one group or individual over another, v17 it builds up the whole body of Christ. ‘A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.’ v18
Do we pray for our church leaders that their words will come from a meek heart?
Are we careful to be disciplined in our speech so the corrupt is not mixed with the pure?
Are we prepared to let the Holy Spirit train us in the way we talk?
Create in me a clean heart, O God