The Tongue Has the Power of Life and Death
Vian United Methodist Church
My dad gave me piece of advice when I was a know-it-all teenager. He said, “Never say in anger what you don’t mean, because you can say you’re sorry, but you can’t take it back.”
Satan can use our tongue to cause division, putting others down, bragging, false teaching, exaggeration, complaining, or just flat out lying. It only takes a few words to hurt someone. Wounds heal but they leave scars that never disappear.
OTop of Formur words have power. They can bring joy or cause misery. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The stakes are high.
Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. Gossip and false teaching are no different. It’s been said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.
The church that James is writing to in James 3:1-12 was full of small-minded people who gossiped about each other and tore one another apart with their tongues. We’re quick to avoid the sins of murder, stealing, and drunkenness, but we often assassinate fellow believers and leave a trail of destruction by the way we use our tongues.
Husbands have stabbed their wives with words that are as sharp as daggers.
Wives have lashed out with tongues that slice and dice.
Parents have devastated their children by repeated blasts of venom.
And children have exploded at their parents with words that have leveled the entire family like a bomb.
Look at what’s written in the first chapter of James’ letter: James 1:19 “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;” And verse 1:26, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.” If you and I launch verbal destruction, those words will have devastating consequences on others.
James connects sins of the tongue with sins of the body because our words usually lead to corresponding deeds. Proverbs 21:23 says “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” The tongue can express or repress; offend or befriend; affirm or alienate; build or belittle; comfort or criticize; delight or destroy.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” We all know that isn’t true, don’t we? Actually, psychological pain is much more severe and lasting than physical pain. More people than we might think harbor scars from psychological abuse as children. Those scars are on their hearts and they influence their lives.
Words can break our hearts. Words can break our spirits. Broken bones can heal with time, but a broken spirit caused by words of death, isn’t easily repaired. How many people have you maimed or killed with your words? Is your tongue too quick to criticize? Do your words build up…or do they tear down?
So how do we tame our tongue? Did you know that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters? One for every day of the month. I’m going to read one chapter of Proverbs and one chapter of James every day for the next month. I invite you to do the same. Nearly every chapter of Proverbs has something to say about the tongue. At the end of the month, we’ll have read the entire book of Proverbs once, and the book of James six times.
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