The Power of Life and Death

The words we speak carry a lot of weight. Some of that weight is fruitful, and some of it, unfortunately, is harmful. While it’s said that actions speak louder than words, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that, the book of Proverbs very clearly communicates that the tongue holds immense power.  The words we use actually have the potential to bring life or death. That’s no joke. I think if we could physically see what happens in the spiritual realm when we speak, we would be much more cautious of our words. James 1:19 advises us to be slow to speak, to take time to think before letting our inner thoughts become tangible. James 3:5 says “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Proverbs 18:21 declares the great truth that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." There is scripture all over the Bible that reveals the potential of our words.

So what do we do with that? We practice being uplifting and encouraging, we give ourselves and others grace, and we live with a greater awareness of the words we speak. Something I like to consider is what God’s immediate response might be to something that I say. Would He grieve over the sentence spoken, or would He be excited about it? Would He bless and applaud the lyrics I’m singing, or would He rather His child choose different music? James 3:10-12 says “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” God’s heart is lifted when we choose to speak words that are whole and encouraging, but His heart saddens when we allow the norms of our culture to negatively influence our language.
Our words affect both ourselves and others. Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So gossip and slander cannot be good, or edifying, or pleasing to God. They have no room in the Kingdom of God. Any words spoken about/over someone that isn’t true or wholesome is unnecessary. It’s not only unnecessary, it’s destructive. We ought to be instead, speaking freedom and blessing over people. Yes, even the people who are difficult to love.

We have the authority and influence to release life over people. With everyone going on around us during this time, it’s crucial for us to use our words carefully and thoughtfully. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Now, and always, we are prompted to use our words to expose darkness and bring light, to care for and provide for people, to extend grace and not hatred.
So where can we start? One of my favorite scriptures is Luke 6:45, which says “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I think we can first address our own motives when we’re speaking. We can reflect on why we use the language we use, why we choose the words we choose, and why we talk about certain things but maybe not other things. This is a big deal to God. We have to intentionally consider what our hearts are filled with. Pain? Sorrow? Deceit? Joy? Gratitude? Because from that place is what comes out of our mouths. It’s natural.

These are not easy tasks, people. Monitoring, managing, and cultivating our words takes an incredible amount of practice and patience, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit is our advocate, and wants to help us use our words well. Thank God for the Holy Spirit. If death and life are in the power of the tongue, how are we using it? I want to aim for asking myself this question throughout each day, reminding myself of the authority I carry and the grace God gives me. Let’s use His Word to teach us how to use our words. Thank you, Jesus.

Author | Katherine Burnette





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