Our words can be a powerful tool. With them, we can build someone up or tear another down. Scripture reminds us that both blessing and cursing come from the same mouth (James 3:10), sometimes even in the same sentence. James —the half-brother of Jesus—uses a vivid word picture to tell us exactly how powerful the tongue is:
“Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” (James 3:4-5)
Alongside James, many of the Bible’s authors use dramatic imagery to convey to the reader essential truths, which can be grasped easily by both the young and old. Whether from the pulpit or in the privacy of our families and marriages, word pictures can tell others vital truths in ways other forms of communication cannot.
Consider the following story adapted from a talk a small church pastor gave several years ago:
“The day was warm as we walked along the trail. The high sun overhead beat down on us as we made our way along the winding path. As we came to a clearing in the brush, I saw a large rock protruding from the middle of a riverbed, which was rushing with the runoff from last night’s thunderstorm.”
“It wasn’t the rock that caught my attention, but what was coming up out of the rock. A refreshingly green tree clung to the craggy surface as its branches stretched out towards the sunlight. For some reason, this lone tree held on as the rushing water broke upon it and sought to dislodge it from its firm foundation.”
What this wise pastor was saying was that this tree was like the Christian clinging to the Rock during hardship. The sunlight barely showing through the dense canopy reminds us of ourselves we grope our way towards the Light that comes down from above. The water beats upon us in an attempt to weaken the grip our roots have in our unshakable stronghold that is Christ.
Other great preachers have used this imagery of water and stone to convey a similar message. Charles Spurgeon—in the midst of severe trials—is famed for saying, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” And of course Jesus himself uses a parable, or word picture, to tell those gathered around Him the story of a wise man who built his streamside house upon the rock instead of a shifting foundation.
Whether you’re sitting in front a couple who are in need of counseling, trying to help your spouse understand the struggles you’re going through, or preaching to a captive audience, word pictures are an indispensable method of communicating truth. Not only can they break any barriers of understanding but help your hearer understand the Truth in new and fresh ways.