Power of Words

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3:5-6, 9-12

God wants us to be careful with our words, not because our words are weak and meaningless but precisely because words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

The apostle Paul talked about the use of language to the Ephesians when he was encouraging them to live a life of holiness. He said, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”(Ephesians 5:4). Basically, obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking become the opposite of expressions of gratitude.

And I believe James takes this idea even further as he addresses language that becomes curses. Our harsh words toward people can be used by the enemy to curse their lives and give the enemy access to that part of a person’s life. The small spark of our careless words said in anger can become a forest fire in the life of the person we spoke against.

An unintentional curse works like an email sent to a person with a virus attached to it. If the person reads the email but doesn’t open the attachment, the email does little damage. But if the person opens the attachment, a virus is unleashed on the person’s computer.

In the same way, when a harsh word is spoken, if the person resists the word and decides to reject it rather than accept it as true, then the harsh word does little damage. But if the harsh word is spoken and the person receives it and believes it is true about themselves, the enemy unleashes destructive forces in that person’s life through that word. This same principle applies to harsh words we speak against ourselves. At some point, the curse has to be rejected, broken, and the power of that word removed from the person’s life.

The power of words is especially true for people in positions of authority. The words of people in authority over us (parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, etc) carry a lot of weight. So if a harsh word comes flying at us from them, it is even more difficult for it not to become a curse. This is why James starts chapter 3 with the warning, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”(James 3:1). And I believe this includes teachers of every kind in our lives, not just teachers in the church.

Words of blessing and encouragement are powerful too. They have creative power to bring life to a person. God spoke creation into existence in Genesis 1. Jesus is called the Word of God (John 1:1-5). When our words line up with the loving words of God that He is speaking over a person’s life, there is creative power in them to bring about God’s future for that person. Our words become like that parent that helps to get their child started as they learn to ride a bike. Our words of blessing can build stability and momentum until the person can start pedaling on their own.

Blessings and Curses

Paul reminds the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us so that blessing might flow to us. He wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'[Deuteronomy 21:23] He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit”(Galatians 3:13).

I used to not understand that blessings and curses are real things. I would read the Old Testament passages that seemed to indicate that the blessing of a patriarch would help shape the future of the child who received it (Genesis 27). I would read about how a prophet was hired to put a curse on Israel (Numbers 22). Yet, I just thought words simply encouraged or discouraged. I didn’t think they had any real effect in this world. But I was wrong!

Scripture tries to warn us again and again that our words impact things in the spirit realm and in the natural world. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

James 3:8-10 says, “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

So how do blessings and curses work?

Some curses are intentional but most are unintentional. An intentional curse is an evil appeal for harm to come to someone, especially in voodoo, witchcraft/Wicca and occult practices, and it is usually spoken aloud. An unintentional curse usually comes in the form of harsh and condemning words spoken about a person or words of hopelessness and despair spoken over a person’s life (usually from someone in authority over them like a parent, coach, doctor or teacher).

An unintentional curse could be a father, in a moment of anger, saying to his child, “You’ll never amount to anything!” Those words sink in and are believed. Later that child struggles to be successful and wonders why. Or it could be a doctor saying, “You’ll never have children,” or “You’ll never recover.” These words kill hope and help to bring about what they proclaimed.

The key to these harsh or hopeless words becoming curses is how they are received. If these words are accepted by the person, and there is an agreement made in their hearts, these words then give the demonic world access to the person’s life to bring about that word of cursing. They become self-fulfilling prophecies because the enemy takes advantage of them as access points.

Harsh and hopeless words are like an email sent with an attachment that has malware or a virus. The email may contain harsh words, but the real damage comes when there is an agreement with those words in the person receiving them. It’s like clicking on the attachment that allows a virus on your computer. But if the attachment is never opened, no matter how many emails are sent, the person will not be harmed. This is why we must be vigilant about the words that come against us. We must reject any word the enemy may try to use against us.

The best news of all is that Jesus became a curse for us! He took all of that cursing upon Himself so that we don’t have to deal with it. In the place of cursing, Jesus offers us blessing. He offers us His words over our lives that bring His blessing. And just as curses can have real effect in our lives if we agree with them, blessings can have even more effect if we agree with them.

So not only do we need to speak words of blessing over the people around us, allowing the Holy Spirit to ignite those powerful words in that person’s life, but we also need to stand in agreement with the words that Jesus says about us. Standing in agreement with the words of Christ over our life will help us immediately detect and reject any unintentional words of cursing that may come our way.

If you feel that you’ve agreed with too many harsh or hopeless words that have come your way, make the declaration below to break those curses off of your life in Jesus’s name. Just be sure to say it out loud when you take your stand!

“In the name of Jesus, I break every curse of words against me. I take every word captive that’s been spoken over me, that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness. I cast them to the ground. I call a blessing to follow me in their place. I take back every curse that I’ve spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground and I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I could live in blessing!”

From Rodney Hogue’s teaching in Empowered