We know by personal experience that words can have a profound effect. Words have the power to lift a heavy heart or to crush a fragile heart. At times people speak words carelessly without much consideration of the effect on the hearers, nor on themselves. What determines the effect of words?
The Amplified Bible paints a sobering picture of the power of words.
Psalm 18:21 (AMP):
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it and indulge in it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.
This should capture our attention to the end that we make it our practice to speak with purpose and loving intention to offer truth, encouragement, comfort and edification to the hearers.
If you do a simple search in the Bible on the topic of words, you’ll see the “dark side” of words described as hasty, lying, vain, perverted, corrupt, flattering, enticing, devouring, malicious, beguiling, deceiving and evil. Bitter words can be like arrows, swords or a sharp razor. All of the aforementioned cause wounds. I Timothy 6:4 refers to the strife of words and II Timothy 2:14 talks about words to no profit but the subverting [catastrophe, overthrow, destruction] of the hearers.
God has an extremely strong opinion about such words. Three out of seven of the following things that God hates refer to evil words and their effects, including discord among the family of believers.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV):
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
In contrast, we can speak powerful words that bring life to others and to ourselves, words that edify, encourage, honor, and heal one another. We can comfort one another with words of hope and nourish one another with words of faith.
Proverbs 18:4 gives a vivid description of words: “The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters…” Have you ever been to the ocean on a beautiful day and seen the calm surface of the water with gentle waves lapping the shore? Yet, there is much activity under the surface with teeming sea life and the movement of the tides. In the depths of the ocean there can be seismic tremors from shifting tectonic plates and underwater volcanoes which, if severe, can result in dramatic earthquakes and destructive tsunamis. What is happening under the surface of spoken words?
The second part of that verse describes how words of wisdom flow: “…and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” This paints a beautiful picture of a natural flow of words from our hearts like fresh water flowing from a pure mountain spring, providing nourishment and refreshment.
Have you ever known people that cause you to brace yourself when you see them coming because you anticipate an onslaught of words that will be difficult to endure? On the other hand, have you ever known people that bring with them the assurance that something good is about to happen because of the love and encouragement that comes from their words? Let’s intentionally be THAT person!
Following are a few of many beautiful illustrations in the Scriptures of how we, as children of a loving God and imitators of Him, can and should speak.
Proverbs 15:1a,2a,4a (AMP):
A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath…
The tongue of the wise speaks knowledge that is pleasing and acceptable…
A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life…
Proverbs 16:24 (NLT):
Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
Proverbs 31:26 (KJV):
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Jesus made a profound statement about the relationship between the heart and the mouth. The condition of our hearts dictates the words that we speak.
Luke 6:45 (KJV):
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
If you had a precious and valuable treasure chest, would you throw putrid garbage into it? We live in a world where there is easy and abundant access to information, audibly and visually, including social media, television, radio, movies, podcasts, etc. There are great benefits to connecting with people and being informed, but our filter of information must be the mind of Christ. If we let our minds and hearts be dominated by the thoughts and opinions of the world, that’s what we’ll talk about.
Let’s not fall into socially common patterns of communication that cause damage to ourselves and others, including sarcasm, complaining, insinuation and criticism. But rather, let’s intentionally speak in a manner that penetrates and disperses darkness with the light of love and truth, and that offers hope, comfort and encouragement. Let’s speak words that praise, honor and glorify God! May this be the prayer of our hearts…
Psalm 19:14 (KJV):
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.