This principle of our words having the power of life and death is clear in Proverbs 18:21. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words are like seeds that produce fruit, and we will eat the fruit of our words. In this passage of scripture, the word death means separation. When we speak words of death, it means we will eat the fruit of what separates us from what God intended for our lives. When we speak words of life, it means we will eat the fruit that produces life, what God intended for us. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” So whatever is in your heart will come out in your speech. Proverbs 14:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it springs the issues of life.” The reality is that if you have anger in your heart, anger will come out of your mouth. If you have complaining, harsh, resentful, judgmental, critical, negative gossip in your heart, it will come out in your words. That will produce death, separation from what God intended. But, if you have grace, truth, kind, encouraging, uplifting, blessing, tender words in your heart, they will produce fruit that will give you life. What we say matters!
This past weekend I talked about identifying a sick tongue. A sick tongue is a lying tongue. This is one of the six things God hates. In Proverbs 6, three of the things God hates have to do with the mouth. The reason God hates lying is because is sows discord. It separates people. God is a reconciler. He calls us peacemakers, not troublemakers. He has given us all who are believers the ministry of reconciliation. In John 8 it speaks of the devil being a liar and the father of it. A lying tongue is being influenced by the devil.
Gossip is another way to identify a sick tongue. Karen Salmansohn says, “Gossips are worse than thieves, because they steal another person’s dignity, honor, reputation, and credibility, which are impossible to restore, so remember this: when your foot slips, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips you cannot recover your words.” In Romans 1:29 God equates gossip (whispers) with murder and sexual immorality. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man sows strife, and a gossiper separates the best of friends.” Proverbs 11:23 says, “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” The opposite of a talebearer (gossiper) is a faithful person who conceals a matter. If there is any place that we should be safe to confess our sins, failures, weaknesses, and faults, it should be among the body of Christ (the church). People should be able to come to us and tell us their deepest, darkest secrets and they should be safe with us. But that has not always been the case. I’m not talking about concealing illegal, dangerous or hurtful activity. If someone came to me with any information about a suicide attempt or child abuse, I would not keep that a secret.
James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Is it possible that there are a lot of people in church who are not being healed emotionally, spiritually, or even physically, because they won’t confess their faults to one another? And is it possible that many won’t confess their faults to one another because they have done so in the past and been burned by a talebearer who spread their embarrassing weaknesses and failures all over the church? We need to become faithful spirits who know how to conceal a matter.
A pessimistic tongue is a sick tongue. One of the most common problems of sin is unbelief. The source of all unbelief is the heart. If it is in your heart it will invariably come out of your mouth. The cure for unbelief is also in our mouth. Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” In this passage of scripture there are two important things to pay attention to. The first is the warning against having an evil heart of unbelief. The second is that the antidote is to exhort one another daily. You exhort one another with your mouth. Use your words to encourage those that you love, those whom God has entrusted to you. I have had people in my office who have told me about how their parents had spoken negative words over them growing up. Ten, twenty, even thirty or more years later, they are still being held hostage to the patterns and behaviors of the negative words that someone had spoken over them. We should use our words to speak life over ourselves and others because life and death are in the power of the tongue. Unbelief is contagious, and it is spread through negativity. If you have a negative mouth, you have a heart of unbelief.
Negative people try to justify their negativity by saying they are surrounded by all these positive people and they need to balance them out. (“Someone has to be a realist around here.”) This is just rationalization and self-justification for having a negative unbelieving heart. Why does any believer ever have to be negative when God is still on the throne and all His promises are yes and amen? 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that negativity is the enemy’s (devil) language spoken by those who have his perspective. God’s language is faith. Nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26). God never speaks negative. He speaks truth and he speaks it by faith because He sees what can happen. Faith doesn’t mean you don’t see the problem. Faith means you can see past the problem to the answer. You are not saying there is no problem. You are saying there is an answer. Faith says I may be sick, but God is healing me. By His stripes we are healed.
Faith is expressed when you declare (speak) that you have a problem but God is helping you overcome it. You are trusting God and believing His promises. From the beginning to the end, the christian life is to be lived by faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith. Galatians 2:20-21 says, ”It is no longer I who lives in me, and the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Let’s stay in the faith and continue to exhort and encourage one another by looking for the good in each other and not the negative. Let’s use our words to speak life and not death because death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.
In James 3 it says that with our tongues we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude (image) of God. “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing, my brethren, these things ought not be so.”
Let’s ask God to help us to begin to speak blessing and not curses over people. This will change your life and those closest to you.
The writer is the senior pastor at Russell Road Church, Sidney.