“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
The Lord knows I love my words—maybe that’s why this week’s small group lesson and sermon really wedged themselves deep inside my heart. God gave me a gift of words, but He did not make me use them a certain way. This is one of those beautiful, sometimes unfortunate, gifts that we can choose to use the right way or the wrong way. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been on both sides of the fence. But when I stand on the side where my words wound or drive people apart or scare me with the thought of them escaping confidence—there’s this growing, festering wound in my own soul built of fear, guilt, remorse and shame.
Why? Well, you see…God is good and He gave us our words. Though He gives us a choice in how to use our words, I believe He wants us to use those words for good—for encouragement, to build up and not to tear down. Haven’t you felt the warmth spreading from your soul to your smile when you speak lovingly to or encourage someone and see his or her entire look change? Why is it that we’re so shocked to hear good news or encouragement or love from someone else’s lips? And how to we get back to where speaking life and love is the norm? Let’s take a look at Scripture to see what the Lord says about the power of our words. As you read, I want you to use your highlighter on every mention of the words: tongue, mouth, words or lips.
Words Mirror Our Hearts
“3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 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. 5 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. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12
“1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;” Psalm 15:2-3
“30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. 31 The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.” Psalm 37:30-31
“The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.” Psalm 36:3
“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” Proverbs 10:20
“A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Proverbs 17:4
“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
“29 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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:29-31
Words Call for Respect or Ridicule
“In the same way, the womenare to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” I Timothy 3:11
“From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced.” Proverbs 10:31
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13
“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.” Proverbs 12:6
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Proverbs 12:19
“The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:2
“The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in his sight.” Proverbs 15:26
“One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.” Proverbs 17:20
“17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, 18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.” Proverbs 22:17-18
“Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs 29:20
Words Can Wound
“19 You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. 20 You sit and testify against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.” Psalm 50:19-20
“2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor…You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!” Psalm 52:2,4
“His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” Psalm 55:21
“I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” Psalm 57:4
“2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers. 3 They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows. 4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear.” Psalm 64:2-4
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Proverbs 18:8
Words Can Heal
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15: 1,4
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9
Words that Bite Back
“36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
“12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, 13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:12-14
“3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue—4 those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?” Psalm 12:3-4
“12 For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter, 13 consume them in your wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Psalm 59:12-13
“He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.” Psalm 64:8
“16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Proverbs 6:16-19
“6 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. 7 The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.” Proverbs 18:6-7
“The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.” Proverbs 22:12
Words Need Self-Control
“keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” Psalm 34:13
“I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” Psalm 39:1
“Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.” Proverbs 10:13
“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 10:19
“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27
“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23
“12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.13At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—14 and fools multiply words.No one knows what is coming—who can tell someone else what will happen after them?” Ecclesiastes 10:12-14
Their Words Hurt Me, What Now?
1. Ask God to Reveal the Truth
“1 I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. 2 Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. 3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue? 4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.” Psalm 120:1-4
2. Trust God to take care of you while you love them and teach them what He says.
“6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Ezekiel 2:6-8
3. Pray for them and love them as Christ loves you.
“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45
Installing a Mouth Filter
1. Ask God how to deal with it. Listen to His answer.
“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.” Proverbs 16:1
2. Ask yourself, “Will the words I’m about to say please the Lord?”
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
3. Ask God to cleanse you, forgive you for what you’ve said and renew your joy.
“2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:2, 10, 12
4. Transform the way you think—focus on His word. Pray and seek His will.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Whew! I know this is a deep subject and it’s hard to cover every single verse. But take your time reading through these. If you feel lead, pick a verse or two to pray over. The more our thinking lines up with His, the easier it gets to let go of the need to share the latest “news”. Ask God to help you see others as He sees them, especially those you have a hard time with. I want to challenge you to write down the name of every person you’re tempted to gossip about—then write down some of their good qualities. Try to see the beauty God placed within them. Then pray for your own heart toward them and then just pray for theirs. It’s amazing what a little love and prayer will do. Not to say it’ll be easy, but I want to encourage you to try it because it has made a difference in my life. I wish you all a lovely week!