The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. —Proverbs 15:4
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. —Proverbs 18:21
According to the Bible, our words have incredible power. You may be familiar with the warnings in James chapter 3 about the destructive power of our tongues when we use them incorrectly. With our words we can crush someone’s spirit. We can spread lies and gossip; we can mock and belittle. But our words also have great power to do good. In the two Proverbs above, God says that the tongue can be a great source of life to the people around us. Our words can heal and encourage. They can build others up, giving them strength to face life’s challenges.
This past weekend our staff experienced the power of simple words. As part of a team retreat, we spent an evening where negative speech was off-limits, and we took turns affirming one another by listing the positive qualities we see in each other. Even though we work together all the time, this exercise brought out things we admire and appreciate about each other that we probably wouldn’t have said otherwise. It was a powerful time of encouragement. When we use words as God intended them to be used, we can change the environment around us and set others free to be their best.
We have the power to speak life to others because we are made in the image of God, and God is the original life-giver. God spoke and the universe was created. His first recorded words in the Bible are “let there be light.” You and I can’t speak things into existence as God can, but we can bring light into dark places with our words. Simple phrases like “thank you,” “I appreciate you,” and “I forgive you” can be a powerful force for change. When we let people know that we love them just as they are, when our tone of voice assures them that we are on their side, we change their whole day. God uses our words to bring them peace and joy and hope.
Probably all of us have experienced the power of speech to do good and to do harm. Maybe you have been part of a family or a workplace where negative speech created an environment that was dark and oppressive. Maybe you have a friend you can always count on to lift your spirits with words of kindness and faith. In recent years, social media has become another place in our daily lives where we are bombarded with words. Depending on the friends we have, this can either be a source of blessing or discouragement.
How are you using your words? Are they life-giving? What would those around you say? This week, make it your goal to bless and encourage the people in your world. Tell your spouse and your children how grateful you are for them. Let your co-workers know that you appreciate them. Remind your friend who is struggling of the faithfulness of God. The tongues in our mouths are powerful tools, to do good or to do harm, to crush or to build up. Let’s honor God in the way we use them.
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. —Ephesians 4:29