“A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:20-21
How often would it have been, that you would have let the words slip out of your mouth, only to regret that you ever spoke them? Too late! No way of taking them back… the damage has already been done. And now you start retracing your steps and thinking about all that you spoke or said. You begin wondering, how well you had used your words. Were they kind? Were they spoken with gentleness or were they rude and terse, conveyed with anger? Did you say too much or too little? Did you offend someone, and if you did, would you be forgiven?
Dwelling on these thoughts can be quite agonizing and painful. These regrets have a lasting impact on us and the world around us, more importantly our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. What if you yourself were the victim of a barrage of angry words or mindless accusations or offensive remarks? What would your response be? I suppose you would have heard this saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt me.” I think that’s far from the truth, as our hearts would have a difficult time agreeing to it, because words can offend. That’s the reality! Therefore, it’s imperative for us to know how to and how much to use our words.
No wonder, King Solomon gives us this wise counsel:
He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.’(Prov. 13:3)
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.’(Prov. 21:23)
Words have power
For sure, words have power!! God’s words were so powerful that they actually created everything. He spoke, and creation came into existence (Genesis 1). Our spoken words too have great power because they influence our heart and mind and everything around us and reflect what our heart looks like and what our mind is thinking. Truly, our words reveal our heart, and expose the condition and attitude there in. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks, and as Jesus said, “It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him.”
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45
When we do not choose our words wisely, we can tear down instead of building up, discourage instead of encouraging or grieve someone instead of comforting them…
all power of life and death, truly is in the tongue.
For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
Just as a small metallic bit, placed in a horse’s mouth, attached to a bridle and connected to the reins can help control, guide and direct a horse or for that matter, a small rudder, which is an important part of the boat’s navigation system, can control a boat and steer it in the right direction, so also is the tongue, which needs to be controlled and tamed, so that its use will result in positive, life-building outcomes.
An Out of Control Tongue
An out-of-control tongue can only result in us stumbling in word about others, with our criticism, gossip, slander, anger, boasting and flattery. What we say to others and what others say to us, be it a sarcastic remark or a well-timed word of encouragement, can have a lasting impact, in a destructive or a constructive way, respectively.
We need to be intentional about monitoring and being mindful of the words that we speak, such that they are not idle chatter or meaningless and thoughtless exchanges that cause disappointment and hurt.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
All of us are vulnerable to hurtful and unkind words, snide remarks, and false accusations, thoughtlessly and carelessly spoken, that pierce our hearts and cut deeply, leaving festering wounds. Jesus warns us about our use of ‘empty’ or ‘idle’ words, that can be used as a judgment against us. Even seemingly insignificant words, that may be overlooked as ‘slips of the tongue’ maybe subject to judgment. Therefore, how mindful we ought to be of the words, we speak!
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matthew 12:36
But, in contrast, a kind word can heal, bless, and edify and can change an unpleasant situation to a pleasant one. The Apostle Paul talks about building people by encouraging and motivating them, by wielding words with careful consideration.
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.
And Paul goes on to say, that we need to get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).
The Book of Proverbs is sprinkled with precious nuggets of wisdom, on how we ought to exercise caution and care, when we speak. It says, that the wise are protected by their own words (Prov. 14:3), they use their knowledge rightly (Prov. 15:2 ) and they share that knowledge (Prov. 15:7) and also use their words with restraint (Prov. 17:28). The tongue of the righteous is choice silver and it nourishes many (Prov. 10:20-21), their mouths flow with wisdom and their lips brings forth what is acceptable (Prov. 10:31-32), and their hearts ponder how to answer (Prov. 15:2). Appropriate speech during a conversation or an interaction is also highlighted in Proverbs. How good it is, when an apt answer or the right word is spoken at the right moment (Prov. 15:23) or that, gracious words are as sweet as a honeycomb and healing to the bones (Prov. 16:24) or words spoken in right circumstances are like apples of gold in settings of silver (Prov. 25:11).
“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” Proverbs 18:4
Gracious, Kind & Loving Words
To be gracious, kind and loving with our words, to exercise restraint and self-control when we desire to say much and to produce words of prudent counsel that would be beneficial, productive, and effective to another, requires divine wisdom. We need wisdom to know when, what and how much to speak, approaching the situation with sensitivity, such that it results in acceptable and favorable communication. Our words must be, a wellspring of life… refreshing, watering, nurturing, and nourishing. This is the choice we make… to speak life and to bless others with our words.
It must be a conscious effort on our part to think through before we speak. We cannot do this on our own, but when we make the right choice of willfully and consciously depending on God, the Holy Spirit empowers us to do just that, moving our heart and training our lips to speak the right words at the right time.
Words are free. It is how we use them that may cost us dearly.
Let us choose our words well… to inspire, heal and to bless.
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