I remember hearing the phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. It was a ridiculous statement one would say when their feelings had been hurt deeply. I said it and ran home in tears several times when I was a child. There was absolutely no truth in those words. The Bible says “Death and life is in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.” Proverbs 18:21.
I went to church every Sunday while growing up. My family attended Sunday mornings and evenings and I regularly participated in our youth group. If our church scheduled a week of revival meetings, we were there. I was on the church board as a teenage representative and I taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School as a college student. I was a church choir member from high school through my adult life, but I wasn’t saved (born again). I did not know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior and I did not know the Word of God. I was simply religious. My biggest obstacle in finding the Lord was pride. I had tried to be the “good little girl” all my life. I tried to obey the rules and not make trouble. I didn’t know what I had done that deserved my death and hell.
Eleven years of a challenging marriage, two children and one miscarriage brought me to a place of crisis. Nothing was working and I was an angry, disappointed and disillusioned 30 year old wife and mother. My marriage was in shambles and I had nowhere to turn for help except the Lord. I had been in Bible Study for two years and was beginning to learn about Jesus. He was not the distant God I had imagined. He was not old, angry, and eagerly searching for those who disobeyed His laws in order to punish them. Instead, He was the kind, gentle, loving, graceful and merciful Lord who died on a cross for my sins. His judgments were righteous. He was the One who carried the weight of my sinful consequences upon Himself, so that I could be adopted into His family.
One night, feeling hopeless that my marriage was lost, I dedicated my life and my children to the Lord because I somehow knew He would take care of us no matter what happened. He graciously answered my prayers that night. He showed me my sin, but not in a condemning way. He explained the answers to my questions about why I should deserve death and hell. He told me, “Your words have killed others.” He did not mean that the people I hurt had literally died, but that my words had deeply injured them, killing something inside of them. I knew I had a sharp tongue and felt determined to win every argument. I also knew that I had rejected Him all those years, thinking I was a good person. I began to understand that words can wound more deeply than weapons. I was forgiven, and my heart had begun the transformation process. I was finally seeing things from God’s perspective.
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the people teaching them the consequences of judging others and the power of their words. Matthew 12:34b “For out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man from his inner good treasure flings forth good things, and the evil man out of his inner evil storehouse flings forth evil things. But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak. For by your words, you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced.”
Gaining control of our tongue is extremely difficult and I am still learning. Lately, I have been hearing the Lord speak to me deeper revelation about the power and authority He has given us through what we speak and declare. It is exciting to know that He charges us to pray and declare certain things He wants to do in the earth. It is also terrifying to know that I can speak the wrong things, even casually, and bring curses upon myself and others. I am becoming more sober minded about what I say because “the power of death and life are in the tongue”.
The Apostle James discussed the importance of controlling our tongue in James chapter 3. He began by praising one who has successfully learned to guard his mouth. “For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature.” Spiritual maturity is equated with the ability to control our tongue. James sees it as the litmus test for a mature Christian.
James continued his discourse by describing the destruction that can come from a “loose” tongue. “And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man’s nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).” We get the picture!
The Lord has great plans for our tongue. What we declare, decree and pray makes a major contribution to inviting His Kingdom to come down and influence things here on earth. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (See Matthew 6:9-13). The Lord created the heavens and the earth by declaring and decreeing His will: “Let there be light”. He called prophets forth to declare and decree His will over kings, nations and people. He has also called us, His disciples, to declare and decree truth, light, His attributes and His works in the earth today. We are to “bear witness” to Who He is and What He has done (and is continuing to do) on earth.
Our sin nature is solely based on self: how things affect us personally. It is not focused on God’s plan and purpose for our lives in regard to His Kingdom. Therefore, we can become envious, jealous, offended and bitter. When that happens, our tongue is used to gossip, slander, pull down others, compete with others and curse others in anger. Unfortunately, we often do so against our brothers and sisters in the Lord which can cause divisions that affect churches, friendships and families by destroying them.
It is therefore imperative that we allow the Lord to transform us through Bible study and meditating on His Word in His presence. We will then learn to properly intercede (pray) for the body of Christ to mature in the knowledge of our Lord. We will also learn how to operate in a Kingdom mentality helping the Kingdom of God to expand in the earth. We will become salt and light as our prayers, declarations, and decrees of His will in the lives of His church and the world manifests His Kingdom in the earthly realm.
There have been many times I have meditated upon the power and authority of the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection compared to what I see in the church today. I have struggled with the differences. I have come to the conclusion that many believers are still heavily influenced by the secular world view, politics, and celebrity instead of becoming the influence of the Kingdom of God in the earth. I say this not to condemn, because we have all failed from time to time. My purpose is to challenge us all to begin to judge ourselves more carefully by weighing our conversations in and out of church and examining who or what we are allowing to influence us. Matthew 7:17- teaches, “Even so, every healthy (sound) tree bears good fruit [worthy of admiration], but the sickly (decaying worthless) tree bears bad (worthless) fruit. A good (healthy tree cannot bear (worthless) fruit, nor can a bad (diseased) tree bear excellent fruit [worthy of admiration].”
Every idle word, negative judgment made, criticism and accusation of others not only works against the Kingdom of God, it expands the kingdom of darkness. Every praiseworthy witness, declaration of truth, action of love, and decree of what the Lord has done is building His Kingdom on earth! Every acknowledgement of Who He is, praising His attributes and celebrating His faithfulness, mercy and grace resoundingly invites heaven to earth!
What we say matters, and that may be why we have not seen answers to some of our prayers. How we influence others matters, by whether we draw them to the Lord or repel them from Him. We must ask ourselves this question, “Are we building His Kingdom in the earth or are we just passing through life focused upon ourselves?”
Jesus spoke what the Father told Him to speak and the Kingdom of Heaven invaded the earthly realm. The Apostles and Prophets spoke what the Lord told them to speak and the Kingdom of Heaven manifested in the earth. When we allow the Lord to apply the hot coal of fire upon our lips, cleansing our mouths from earthly banter, we can then be used by God to open up the Heavens giving His Spirit free reign on earth. (See Isaiah 6:1-7).
Words matter. “Death and life are in the power of our tongue.” May we go and build His Kingdom, one word at a time.