King Solomon cautioned readers of the book of Proverbs that death and life are in the power of the tongue. As followers of Christ created in the image of God, how often do we consider the gravity of that fact? How often are we mindful of what we say, tweet, text, send?
Careless words. Thoughtless words. Abusive words. Caustic words. Malicious gossip. Words wielded deliberately like the deadliest blade intent on belittling, damaging, destroying. Words spoken without the least bit of thought to their impact.
The apostle Paul cautioned the Corinthian church about their verbal assaults on each other. He feared they had resorted to quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20) He told the church in Colossae to rid themselves of all anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. (Colossians 3:8)
James tells us the tongue is a fire that can set a forest ablaze. He asks us how praise and cursing can come out of the same mouth. (James 3:5-6, 9-12)
Our words matter. How we say them matters. The intent behind them matters. Our words can lift up. Our words can tear down. Our words can bring life. Our words can bring death.
I wish I could say my words have never wounded. But I can’t. I wish I could say I’ve never spoken out of anger, or jealousy, or arrogance. But I can’t. I wish I could say I’ve always spoken the truth in love, or never allowed a hurt to go by without responding with harsh words. But I can’t.
Maybe you feel the same.
Here are three questions to ask ourselves before our words leave us.
Is what I’m about to say true? Is it nice? Is it necessary? It might be true, but do we need to say it? Will it serve to bless, heal, help?
Going back to Paul again. “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” (Ephesians 4:29 GNT)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Our words, however they are delivered, are powerful. Since we are called to be like Jesus, shouldn’t we use our words as he did?
Our words need to speak life, not death, to those around us.
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Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18: 21 ESV
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