James is the lone book of Wisdom literature in the New Testament. According to this author, being Wise is all about learning to think carefully and act virtuously in complex situations. Specifically three things mark the Way of Jesus: taking care in how we speak, giving care to those in distress, and being careful about what we let into our lives (1:26-27). At times sounding more like a linguist or contemporary philosopher than an ancient theologian, James meditates on the power and dangers of language. Talking about more than gossip and the occasional F word, James points to a potential toxicity of speech that can contaminate whole communities of people. It is cosmic and intense stuff.
So to be truly faithful should we adopt a vow of silence? I don’t think that is the only option. Rather, we are called to be thoughtful and compassionate speech practioners. To listen deeply and to speak with care. According to James, there is no way out of this practice. It is part of being on the Way. For whether we mean to or not, we construct worlds with speech. And sometimes we mistake our construction for the whole world. Making meaning of what we see, we conflate this with God’s meaning. Then we behave according to the world we have constructed with our speech, even when that causes us to dismiss or harm those who construe the world differently.
Join us tonight and Sunday as we reflect on what makes language so powerful. And meditate on the word of God in scripture, among us, and within us.