By Mark Wood
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
People can be deeply affected by what we say, such as, “I love you” or “You did a good job.” The other side of that is, “Man you stink” or “You are stupid.” Words have power to build or to destroy.
I was watching television one day when I saw this commercial that all of you have probably seen that says, “Words that hurt.” The commercial gives us examples of parents telling their kids things like, “I wish you were never born,” “You make me sick,” “You disgust me,” and “Why are you so stupid?” It is too bad they don’t have a commercial that shows people how to use words that build.
Why do our words affect people? Words are pure energy. All God had to do is speak life into existence. The tongue forms our words. We never stop to realize that the power of life and death is in the tongue.
When we speak we are to speak in love and not evil or hatred. When we do speak in evil we hurt others. In Matthew 12:37 Jesus says, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Wow! Justified, condemned. By what we say we are judged by our Lord. In Proverbs 13:3, it says: “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”
People never give a thought to the fact that they will end up in trouble. “...they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
In James 3:5-6 we find: “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”
It is amazing just how small the tongue is, and yet it can break the greatest of people. It is like a fire. If we look at people as temples, if our words are an evil fire, then they can burn the temple down.
But can’t we control our tongues? Can we control the wind or the sea? James 3:8 tells us “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Life and death are found on the power of the tongue.
Wild animals have been tamed by men, who cannot tame their own tongue.
We need to ask God to take control of our mouths. In James 3:9-10 we find: “Therewith [the tongue] bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
In verse 11 he asks if a fountain brings forth fresh and bitter water at the same opening.
As with all things, we discover we have a choice.
A coach at a football game was watching one of his players. The player missed the ball. The coach became angry him and signaled the player over. As the player came closer, the coach made a decision, a choice. Instead of lashing out, he explained to the player in a helping way, a caring way, that he needed to keep his eyes on the ball.
Because he chose to speak in a caring way, he admonished the player. If he had chosen the other way, the player could have gotten an attitude.
In Colossians 4:6 it says: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
We should be careful in all manner of conversation. Each and every person is a separate and individual temple.
In Ephesians 4:29 we find: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
So instead of burning down we should be building up. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue...” (Proverbs 18:21). We should choose the power of life.
Romans 14:19 tells us: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” In Ecclesiastes 10:12 we find: “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.”
The question is this, what do you desire to be? Do you want to be the wise man or the fool? Do you want to be righteous or wicked?
Proverbs 12:13 gives us these words of wisdom: “The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.”
The choice is yours.
Do you desire to let the Lord tame your tongue and to speak love? Life and death live in the power of the tongue. Choose the power of life. Choose the power to build others, to admonish them, to love them.
Let’s be careful of our own conversation. Seek to speak righteous things, peaceful things to one another.
(Wood is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Oak Hill and a member of the Fayette Plateau Ministerial Association.)