Proverbs 18v21 [TNIV]:
The tongue has the power of life and death…
The Scriptures remind us again and again that our words contain a certain power.
We can use words to create or destroy.
To build up or tear down.
To soothe or to irritate.
To inspire hope or to spread despair.
Our words are heavy and full of potential. That’s why the ancients valued speaking a word of blessing over their children before their death; they believed that their words could actually shape the future for their children. That’s also why the blessing of a father meant so much to a child; they believed these words would actually come true [read Genesis 27 for an example of this tradition] .
Now, in one sense, we’ve moved past this kind of superstition–we realize that just because someone says something to us or about us, that it doesn’t mean we are cursed and that it has to come true. But in another sense, words still carry this weight and force behind them, don’t they?
If you tell someone they are worthless enough times, they might actually begin to believe it.
If you call someone ‘stupid’ enough times, they might lose confidence in their intelligence.
If you are consistently over-critical of someone, they may become over-critical and insecure about themselves.
Words still carry the power to shape us.
In Ephesians 4v29, the writer gives us this instruction:
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. [TNIV]
The word ‘unwholesome’ here comes from the Greek word from which we derive the word “septic.” The writer of Ephesians says, “Don’t have a potty mouth!” Septic speech is easy, isn’t it? It’s easier to be critical, negative, and discouraging to others, because it gives us a sense of superiority to them. That, however, is not the Christ-pattern of living. We are called to encourage, lift up, inspire, and give hope to others; we are called to say things that are ‘helpful’ and that ‘build up’ according to ‘their needs.’
This morning, which is a Monday, I walked into my office to find, as usual, my mail waiting for me. It was mostly junk mail–advertisements and such. However, in this pile of junk mail there was also a small card addressed to me, from a lady in our church. This card was filled with hope and joy and encouragement. This card actually shaped my attitude and inspired this post, because as I read her words of life to me, I was reminded that I need to be that for someone else today as well.
Your words have unimaginable power. How are you using them?