The Power of Words

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:33-37

Our language reveals our heart. If we continue to lie, there is deception in our hearts. If we continue to speak words that are harsh and condemning, there is anger (and maybe rage and hate) in our hearts. If we continue to push people away with our words, there is rejection in our hearts (because we always feel rejected regardless if that is the truth or not). We will have to give an account of every empty word that we’ve spoken. We will have no defense except the blood of Jesus.

There are many people whose words that they speak are ruining their life. Words have the power to bring life or death to the people around us. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit“(Proverbs 18:21). Matthew 12 mentions fruit as well. We will eat the fruit of our own words. If our words bring life, we will experienced life all around us. If our words criticize, cut people down, judge, mock, condemn, and punish then we will experience death all around us. That will be the fruit we eat!

Another way to understand this truth is that our critical and harsh words not only bring death to the people around us (and subsequently becomes the bad fruit that we eat) but there is also a boomerang effect to our words. The measure we use will be used against us.

If our measurement tool is full of forgiveness, grace and love, that is the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will have no place to attack us. But if our measurement tool is full of judgement, anger, resentment, criticism, and perfectionism then that is also the tool that will measure our own life. The enemy will launch attack after attack on our life because we’ve given him a standard of measurement that leaves us completely open to attack. Our life could never hold up to the standard to which we hold others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

Your words were meant to bring life to the people around you. Your words were meant to bring life to you! “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt...”(Colossians 4:6). We need to examine our heart to see what is coming out of it in the form of words. If toxic words are coming out, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to clean out the deep places of our wounded heart. We need to take off the old self, put it to death, and put on the new self which is being renewed day by day to look more like Jesus.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Colossians 3:7-10

Take inventory of your words and it will reveal the condition and contents of your heart.

What kind of words have you been speaking lately? Have they brought life or death? Have you felt their boomerang effect?

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.