The writer of the Letter of James is obsessed with the power of words – the power of words to do harm in the world, AND the power of words to do good in the world – the power of words to tear down, and the power of words to build up. And they go into detail:
They list all the ways that words can hurt –
· we can use words to slander each other, to cut someone down;
· we can use words to lie, to say false things, to cover up hard truths that require our action;
· we can use words to oppress;
· and even if we get the content of our words right, the writer of James says that even our good words are completely meaningless, unless and until we live them out. And so we hear, “Be doers of the Word.”
And then, just as the writer of James describes all the ways that words can do harm in the world, they also point out the ways that words can do good in the world:
· We can tell the truth.
· Our words can bring healing, and freedom, and praise. The kind word. The helping word. The encouraging word. The word that helps us claw our way out of the depths of despair.
· And most importantly, our words can do good in the world when they are helping, healing, saving words, that we then live out. The writer of James says, “Don’t merely listen to the Word; do what it says... The faith that God accepts is this: to look after the orphan and the widow in their distress.” Our best and most faithful words can do good in the world, but only when we live them out.
The writer of James lists all the ways that our words can do harm, and then all the ways that our words can do good. And then as they are listing all the ways that our words can do good, they write, more than anything, more than anything do this: Pray. Pray.
Is anyone among you suffering? Pray.
Is anyone among you cheerful? Pray – sing songs of praise.
Is anyone among you sick? Pray. Call together the elders in the church; the whole community. Pray.