“The tongue is the only tool that gets sharper with use” -Washington Irving
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” –Proverbs 18:21
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words are powerful weapons that can inspire or destroy someone. I have been reflecting on this scripture from Proverbs 18:21 this week as it was used by our pastor on Sunday, and it has come up in several other places in my daily interactions; the Lord is always speaking, we just have to pay attention.
Last night, I saw the movie “Tomorrowland” with a group of friends. The movie was great and had a hope-focused message that I found very inspirational. One scene in particular really stuck with me. There is an interaction between father and daughter where the girl reminds her dad of a story he has told her her entire life. She says: “There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is… which wolf wins?” The father responds, “The one you feed.” This is an old Cherokee Parable that has been passed down, through story, for generations. The film resurrected this concept that I know I have heard in the past.
What does this have to do with my words?
We always have a choice when we speak. God has given us the incredible freedom to choose our words. Some words bring darkness and despair, and are rooted in fear. Some words bring light and hope, and are rooted in love. We have words that are never released, and words that should never have been released. We have words that build up, and ones that tear down. I believe that when we speak something out of a place of fear, fear is “manifested” into our environment- that is, fear is spoken into existence. The same goes with love, when we speak life and love… these things are made manifest. Scripture has a lot to say about our words!
“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” -Prov 21:23
“No human being can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring” -James 3:8-12
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” -Matt 12:33-34
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” -Prov 12:18
“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” -Psalm 141:3
I hope these scriptures are as convicting to you as they are for me! Conviction is a declaration of guilt for behaving in a way that doesn’t align with God’s commands. It is followed by immediate forgiveness, by way of receiving His grace, and then turned into action to prevent that behavior from being repeated in the future.
What about the James 3 scripture… it says that “No human being can tame the tongue?” What’s the point of trying if it can’t be done? Matthew 19:26 says that “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” The way that we tame our tongues is by partnering with the Holy Spirit; these problems cannot be solved or transformed by mere will power. I have personally been learning so much about this, even in the past 24 hours. I have felt conviction about my words and have been seeking the Lord about what to do in order to speak in a way that brings light and life. I want to starve the “dark wolf” and nourish the “wolf of light”. So how do I do this?
1. Dedicate your heart, mind, and tongue to the Lord, daily
Seek holistic purity. Pray that God would protect your mind from thoughts that lead to words of destruction. Offer all the words of the day ahead to Him with praise. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” When we choose praise, we “sacrifice” slander, gossip, fear-based words, and the language of hell. Luke 6:45 says that, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of!” What are you filling your heart and mind with?
2. Pray that God would give you an awareness/consciousness of your words
Someone once said, “Taste your words before you spit them out!” Acknowledge your need for discernment and God’s grace to help you remain conscious of your words. Be intentional. If you’re supposed to speak up, do it with boldness. If you are supposed to remain silent, do it with boldness. Psalm 19:14- “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength”. Take responsibility for the words that come out of your mouth.
3. Surrender up your “right” to complain
You and I are not entitled to the act of complaining, especially not in front of your friends, coworkers, and strangers. No one enjoys hearing it, and the people that seem to don’t have your best interests in mind. If people don’t engage you or agree with you when you complain about yourself and others, it is because you are making them uncomfortable. My wife and I have safe space and time where we allow each other to “vent” and to process through difficulties of the day… but there is a “time-limit” that we put on this and we try to practice not “venting” in the presence of others. We vent, we pray, we change the subject. Sitting in negative words is suffocating and causes death to the environment that your in.
4. Ask for forgiveness for any unloving words or attitudes
“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” James 3:2. Spend some time with the Lord repenting and asking for forgiveness regarding language or words that you have spoken that are offensive. Commit to working on changing the way you speak in order to demonstrate His love to the world.
5. Practice speaking words that will encourage, comfort, edify, and inspire
Ask God to guide you to speak words that will honor Him and accomplish His purposes. The goal is to SPEAK LIFE. This means that you try practicing Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. To encourage means to give support, confidence, or hope. To comfort means to soothe, console, or bring freedom from pain. To edify means to cultivate, develop, and build up. And to inspire means to motivate, excite, energize, and to “breathe into.”
If you are reading this, you probably have the ability to speak or communicate. There are those in our world who do not have this privilege! We are so incredibly blessed to be able to use our words to effect the world. How will you use that gift today? Which wolf will you feed?