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They say you need a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but the truth is everyone is packing a loaded tongue! Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” You have the ability to release death and life. That’s a lot of power! You have the power to build others up or cut others down. That little tongue has the capability of setting on fire the course of nature (James 3:6). And yet, most people don’t consider how they use it.

The Bible speaks of the tongue more than 200 times, which means it’s something we should carefully consider. Yet few people consider their words. They allow their weapon to go off wildly and randomly at the slightest provocation. You have to learn how to use a gun. You can’t just fire it off carelessly. With practice, you can better control where the bullet is going to go. In the same way, the tongue should be governed by careful thought and control. So much damage is done to people through destructive words, and sadly the church is guilty of much of it. The church is quick to beat up on their own whenever there is disagreement or failure.

Someone says, “Aw what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that we are created in the image of God, and one of the most distinguishing factors of His image is the ability to speak and communicate. It distinguishes us from the animals. The big deal is that words change things. God spoke, and there was light. God reveals Himself through the Word. He even sent Jesus as the Word, the express communication from God that changed the course of history. We are created in the image of God, and we also have the same power to change the course of history. No, you can’t just speak the word and have a new Buick appear in your driveway. But your words are nonetheless a spiritual force that has the ability to bring life or destruction.
Words Have Impact
A good illustration of this comes from an essay I graded for an English Composition class I taught in China. My Chinese students submitted lots of odd writing, but one student wrote something profound that illustrates the power of words. Her essay said that when her father overheard her speaking harshly to a friend, he later brought her outside and had her hammer some nails into a tree. He then told her to take the nails out. She had a difficult time, but she got them out. He then told her, “It’s hard to take back your words, and even then, you have left holes in the tree that can’t be fixed.” This was such a good essay, until I read a little further, “If this email has touched your life, please send it along to 10 other friends.” So much for the A grade I was about to give her! Nonetheless, the point is that words can leave lasting damage.

Your words don’t just affect others, however. They also affect you. “They that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Words can actually carve out the path before you. If you are always speaking worry, you feed worry, and you will worry. If you are always complaining, you feed frustration, and you will be frustrated. As people get older, they can start to routinely speak of their aches and pains. They then adapt to the mindset that this is the way it is, and this is the way it’s going to be. If a medical crisis comes, often the words will be centered on all that the doctor said is wrong. More attention will be given to the threat or problem than to the promises of God.

“Well we’re just speaking what’s true!” It’s fine to speak what’s true, but what’s true is not always the full truth. The full truth is that you have life and hope in Jesus Christ, who is a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Don’t give equal weight to that which is leading to death. Speak life and carve out a different path before you!

In 2006, we learned that our daughter would need heart surgery as soon as she was born. We are grateful for the doctor who spoke nothing but words of encouragement. As we sat before him, wondering if we would have to make major changes ahead, he smiled and kept saying, “It’s all going to be fine. We can work with this!” Everything did turn out fine, and we praise God for the atmosphere of hope he created. Many doctors do just the opposite. They present the worst case scenarios so that you won’t be disappointed. In doing so, fear and gloom can come in and set the path. There are always exceptions, but why not create an atmosphere of life and hope to begin with?

Corruption or Edification

What’s coming out of your mouth? What kind of atmosphere are your words creating? “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” (Eph. 4:29). Every believer is ministering something through their words. Is it grace or corruption? “Bless her heart…” How many times does gossip flow in Christian conversation? The goal of all talk should be life and not death, yet death is so much easier to spew. The world constantly spews it and conditions us to do the same. It’s vital that we make sure our tongues are in check.

It’s vital because there’s a link between the power of the Holy Spirit and our words. Along with the instruction to have no corrupt communication, Paul adds, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (vs.30). If you want a life filled with more power from the Spirit, watch your words! He is grieved when we release the power of death from our tongues.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (vs.31). Not only does this imply controlling what you speak, but also put away any of it that comes from another. Don’t put up with talk that cuts down or fails to edify. Don’t subject yourself to continual profanity in the media. Put away any hatred that comes from another. How do you do that? By forgiving as Christ: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (vs.32).

Peter spoke about it this way: “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1Peter 3:9). How quickly the passions flare, and the tongue is let loose to put someone back in their place! Instead, the Christian tongue should bless those who curse them. In that way, God comes into the picture and restores life. He will vindicate. He will undo the damage that the other has caused by their death words. But when you play by their rules and fire back, you miss the blessing.

Just as Paul linked the tongue to power in the Spirit, Peter links the tongue to life and seeing good days: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.” (1 Peter 3:10) Having bad days? Check and see what’s generally been coming out of your mouth. Jesus said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matt. 15:11)

Copyright © Rick Bell
All rights reserved.

Author Biography

Rick Bell
Web site: Rick Bell
Rick is a writer, speaker, teacher, and minister who has lived and served overseas since 1995. In late 2013, he moved back to America, but continues to travel and work with pastors and leaders across the world. His passion is to build others up with the life-changing truths of God’s grace and love.

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