“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21, KJV)
“Your mouth is going to get you into trouble!” For some readers, especially those from the Caribbean, those words provoke fond memories. Many of us can hear our mother’s voice in our heads as time and time again she would remind us – in that rebuking tone – that if we were not careful of that which we speak, we would get into some serious trouble, either with her or with other people. In as much as we hate to admit it, Mom was right; she was on to a very important truth that the Bible speaks about with some profoundness. When read from the Message translation, the same verse reads: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Thought provoking, isn’t it?
I do not think that most people, including Christians, understand the impact of their words on their respective circumstances. Someone once said that words are like containers and they return to us that which we speak or declare. In doing a study of our reference text, I discovered that the Hebrew word translated “tongue”, could also be figuratively interpreted as “language”, and the Hebrew root word translated “power”, could also be translated to mean “direction”. If we use these substitutes in the verse above, it would read: “Death and life are in the (direction) of the (language)”!
In Deuteronomy 30:19 we read: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” and again we see God instructing Jeremiah to tell the people: “Behold I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” (21:8). We can use these verses in a context to stress the importance of choosing life in that which we speak, but that is not easy as it does not come naturally. James reminds us: “But the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (3:8), and Jesus weighed in on the matter when He said: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” (Matt. 15:18). Interestingly, the Greek work translated “mouth” in this verse, by implication means “language”, so once again we see how that little unruly muscle in our mouth can be our undoing. The unfortunate reality however is that the devil is so cunning that for the most part, we do not pay careful attention to our words and so we speak things to our detriment.
Without thinking about it, we tend to speak negatively. We do not have enough money to cover our bills and so we speak about our lack. We do not feel well in body, so we talk about our illness. We are faced with the storms of life and we speak not of the Jesus that is walking on the water, but of the storms themselves. We are job seeking and our speech – more like complaints – are about the difficulties in finding a job and not about the God who knows where the jobs are. We are prone to see the problems, and talk about those problems, without fully understanding that that which we speak and declare about our circumstances and ourselves is pretty much what we will experience. James again reminds us: “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it,” (3:5, Message Translation), while the impact of our words on the things we experience in our lives was reinforced by God who commanded Moses: “Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you…” (Numbers 14:28).
It is of no surprise to me that the Christians, who seem to prosper and do well, are the ones who understand the power of their words. On the other hand, there are some who you do not want to make the mistake of asking them how they are doing, as it would take an entire day to listen to their litany of woes. For the most part David understood this truth as he pledged: “I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” (Psalm 17:3), and in Psalm 39:1, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle…” Of God he asked: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:34). This was the same David who recorded: “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (34:1), and “Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honor all the day”, (71:8). We could go on and on, but here we have beautiful examples of proper speech and needed inspiration that we can indeed resolve to control our tongue and speak that which edifies.
The most important motivation for changing our language however is the knowledge that as we have spoken in the ears of God, so will He do to us. In the parable of the fig tree found in Mark 11:12-25, Jesus taught the very important principle of speaking to our circumstances and the manner in which we ought to do so: “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23). So, to that negative bank balance we say: “God will supply all my needs so my bills will be paid!”; to the sickness in our body, we say: “Body you may not be well, but by His stripes you are healed!”; to the storms in our lives we say: “I am not going under because Jesus says I should go over, so no matter how hard you blow, I will be victorious!”.
I do think it is high time we tap into the “secret’ of our success. As long as we walk in the will of the Lord, He promises to make us the head and not to tail, above and not beneath; but to claim that position, we have to change our language and speak the things that lines up with the Word. God is bound to honor His covenant and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we start doing out part. Change your language! By so doing, you will change the direction of your life!