“Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21NIV).
Friend to Friend
I’ve always been amazed at the power restrained in a tiny atom too small to be seen by the naked eye. Fission, (splitting the tiny nucleus of an atom), or fusion, (joining nuclei together), have the potential to generate enough power to provide energy for an entire city or enough destructive potential to level an entire town. It all depends on how and when the joining together or splitting apart takes place.
So it is with our words. Bound in one small group of muscles called the tongue lies an instrument with magnanimous potential for good or evil, to build up or to tear down, to empower or devour, to heal or to hurt. It all depends on how and when the joining together and splitting apart takes place. Our words can make or break a marriage, paralyze or propel a friend, seam together or tear apart a relationship, build up or bury a dream, curse God or confess Christ. With our tongues we defend or destroy, heal or kill, cheer or churn. And we, as women, seem to be most talented at deciding when and where to wield this tiny sword.
Just as God used words to create physical life, our words can be the spark to generate spiritual life. Paul taught, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9 emphasis added). Wow! It is with our mouth that we are saved. That is radical responsibility. That is potently powerful.
In the Bible, the book of James paints a poignant picture of the power of our words.
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, 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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:3-6 emphasis added).
On average, 4.3 million acres of forests are destroyed by wildfires each year in the United States. In 2000, nearly 123,000 separate fires destroyed 8.5 million acres of forest. About half are destroyed by natural causes such as lightening strikes, and the rest are caused by the carelessness of mankind. While forest fires leave naked trees and barren hillsides that take years to revive, lives singed by fiery words can be laid bare forever. We would never carelessly fling a lit match out of a car window while passing a national forest, and yet, many times we carelessly toss fiery words about as we pass through life.
The writer of Proverbs notes, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Of all the spiritual disciplines, I believe that bringing our tongues under the submission of the Holy Spirit is one of the greatest. Why? Because through our words we bring life and through our words we bring destruction. They lead us into tranquil waters or take us out to the stormy seas.
There is a story told about Xanthus the philosopher. He once told his servant he was going to have some friends for dinner the following evening and instructed him get the best thing he could find in the market. When the philosopher and his guests sat down the next day at the table, they had nothing but tongue – four or five courses of tongue cooked in various ways. The philosopher finally lost his patience and said to his servant, “Didn’t I tell you to get the best thing in the market?” The servant said, “I did get the best thing in the market. Isn’t the tongue the organ of sociability, the organ of eloquence, the organ of kindness, the organ of worship?”
Then Xanthus said, “Tomorrow I want you to get the worst thing in the market.” The next day when the philosopher sat at the table, there was nothing but tongue-four or five courses of tongue-tongue in this shape and tongue in that shape. The philosopher lost his patience again and said, “Didn’t I tell you to get the worst thing in the market?” The servant replied, “I did; for isn’t the tongue the organ of blasphemy, the organ of defamation, the organ of lying?”
I have never eaten tongue before, but I have had to eat my words. While words are one of God’s most incredible gifts, in the wrong hands (or the wrong mouths) they possess destructive potential.
Dear Lord, help me choose my words wisely, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. Help me speak life into those around me today- to be a source of encouragement rather than discouragement, of hope rather than hurt, and of love rather than pain.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
At the end of today, make of list of 10 ways you encouraged someone with your words.
What was their reaction to those words?
How did you feel about yourself when you encouraged someone else with your words?
Today’s devotion is taken from the introduction of Sharon’s book, There is great power in the words we speak to the people we impact. If you would like to learn more about how to harness this powerful resource and use your words to speak life into others, this book will be a great resource. Why not get a group of girlfriends together and learn about The Power of a Woman’s Words together!