In spite of the Christmas season being well under way, I feel the need to correct a persistent mistake among evangelical Christians. The followers of charismatic preachers insist that our words contain the power to cause events to happen, in effect bringing things into being. They’ll often misread James chapter three by assuming that our tongues have God’s creative power.
So what power do our words really have? Read James chapter three carefully and you’ll see that the tongue doesn’t create reality. What it does do is cause a firestorm of evil when its allowed to go unbridled.
James begins by pointing out that teachers have the greater penalty when they lie than ordinary folks who spread wrong doctrines about God’s Word. The Bible in Basic English renders verse one this way. “Do not all be teachers, my brothers, because we teachers will be judged more hardly than others.” This is because those who teach do so as Christ’s ambassadors. While describing the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ said in Matthew 18:6 (BBE), “But whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a great stone fixed to his neck, and to come to his end in the deep sea.” As you can read in the following verses, Jesus refers to church discipline against those who cause naive believers to stumble and abandon their faith in the Lord.
And after James points out how ships and horses are guided by such small implements as rudders and bridles, he likens the damage that the tongue can do as a tiny spark setting alight a whole forest. As the BBE renders verses five and six, “Even so the tongue is a small part of the body, but it takes credit for great things. How much wood may be lighted by a very little fire! And the tongue is a fire; it is the power of evil placed in our bodies, making all the body unclean, putting the wheel of life on fire, and getting its fire from hell.” This isn’t literal fire but the destructive power of lies and hate-filled words to destroy others.
Nowhere in this epistle does James claim that we can create health and wealth for ourselves merely by speaking positive affirmations and faith-filled words. Neither can our curses against those we hate act like a spell to do them harm. As I’ve pointed out many times before, it’s the meaning people place on words that can be the source of great trouble or tremendous encouragement.
I’ll be writing more about this superstitious nonsense and how wrong it is in my next book called You Think You’re Going to Heaven? Having faith in Jesus Christ means we have trust in his saving work on the cross and that he continues to care for us. If it meant speaking into existence whatever we wanted, the world would be filled with millionaires who have perfect health. As we know, that isn’t so