The Bible tells us “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). That means a lot is at stake in what we say today. And in literate societies like ours, tongues include hands that write, type, paint, or sign.
Tongues of Death
People die because of things that are said. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction, launching holocausts and wars. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, friendships, churches, careers, hopes, understanding, reputations, missionary efforts, and governments.
Tongues of Life
But people also live because of things that are said. The tongue can be “a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4). Tongues can reconcile peoples and make peace (“blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)). Tongues can make marriages sweet, families strong, and churches healthy. Tongues can give hope to the despairing, advance understanding, and spread the gospel.
So what will come out of your mouth today, death or life? “Sword thrusts” or “healing” (Proverbs 12:18)?
The Heart Moves the Tongue
It will all depend on what’s filling your heart. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A self-righteous heart produces a judgmental tongue. A bitter heart produces an acerbic tongue. An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue.
But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue. A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue. A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue.
So fill your heart with grace by soaking in your Bible. Soak in Matthew 5, or Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13, or Philippians 2. And be very careful taking in the words of death in the newspaper, on the radio, the TV, or social media.
And pray this: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)
The world is full of words of death. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who “was a murderer from the beginning. . . and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Let us not join him in his “restless evil” (James 3:8).
For “we are from God” (1 John 15:19), and we believe in his Son, Jesus, “the Word” (John 1:1), “the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and who alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us join him in speaking these.
Tongues for Today
Today, make your mouth “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11). Be “slow to speak” in general (James 1:19). Encourage more than you critique. Seek opportunities to speak kind, tenderhearted words (Ephesians 4:32). Say something affectionate to a loved one at an unexpected time. Seek to only speak words that are “good for building up,” that “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Be a person whose mouth is full of life.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32).