God has given us a very powerful instrument. It can cut, it can manipulate, it can destroy, it can speak love, encouragement and praise. It can lift someone up, or it can tear someone down. That instrument is the tongue. We can do so much good with it, but as the imperfect, sinful, humans we are, we can do some terribly evil things with it as well. Look at what Proverbs 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Do you see what it says? Death and life are in the power of the tongue. We can lift someone up, and encourage them, or we can destroy someone, by lying, or slandering, or ridiculing, or tearing them down with our words.
How much power does the tongue have? Look at what the Bible says about the power of the tongue. James 3:1-13 – 1Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness. 2We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. 3We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. 5So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. 7People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, 8but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. 9Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. 10And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool. 13If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise!
Isn’t it amazing what the tongue can do? Did you notice what this passage of Scripture said? The tongue is such a tiny thing, but it can do enormous damage. James called it a tiny spark that can set a great forest on fire. Of all the evil that the tongue can do, the damage we do to other people can be the most devastating. We start from an early age to lie, blame others, falsely accuse others, boast, and tear others down. The world tells us that we are a product of our environment, that we lie, cheat and steal because we are raised around it. To a certain extent that is true. But left to our own, in a perfect environment, we will still lie, cheat and steal if it benefits us. It’s called our sinful nature.
The Bible has a lot to say about lying and cheating. But sense we are talking about the tongue; let’s keep our study to the subject. Look at what God thinks of lying. Proverbs 6:16-19 – 16These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17A proud look, A lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. This passage of Proverbs lists seven things that God hates. Did you notice what was said about the tongue? Lying. God hates lying, and yet, we do it on a daily basis. Think of all the lives that are destroyed because of lying, all the people in prison because someone falsely accused them of a crime, all the hearts that are broken because someone lied about their faithfulness or their feelings toward their partner. No wonder God hates it so much! It’s no wonder that God will not allow liars into Heaven. Look at Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Did you notice what the verse said about lying? All liars have their part in the lake of fire, the final judgment. Proverbs 12:22 says, Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.
Besides lying, the words we use can also hurt people. How many times have we used our words to put someone down, or to make them look bad in front of someone else? How many times have we heard a parent use their words to hurt their kids by putting them down for mistakes they have made or for misbehaving. I have seen the light of life go out of a kid’s eye just by the words that have been used by their parents. They never smile, they never ask questions, they are always looking down, because they are afraid they might do or say something wrong. All their self-esteem has been taken away by a harsh, sharp tongue that hurts worse than any whip that could have been taken to his back. The pain of a whip will someday go away, but the words of a cruel parent almost never go away. There is such a thing as physical abuse, but just as devastating to a child or an adult is verbal abuse. It may not be a crime in the law books of man, but it is a sin in the eyes of God, and those who practice it will give an account to God. Matthew 12:36 says, But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. The sad part is, once the words have been said, especially to a child by a parent, it is impossible to take the words back. That child will always remember the words. My wife is an adult and still remembers a time when she was 9, the harsh words of a grandparent that said she wasn’t real, just because she was adopted instead of born into the family. Our words can hurt, sometimes more than we could ever possibly imagine.
But just as the tongue has the power to do evil it also has the power to do so much good. Ephesians 4:29 tells us how we should use our tongue. Let’s look at it. Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. We are supposed to use our words to lift people up, encourage them, and help them. We should use our words to stop wars, not start them; to show kindness, not hatred; to help someone not hurt them. Look at what Proverbs 15:1 says, A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Have you ever noticed that? Whenever someone is angry and wanting to argue and you respond with kind words, most of the time their anger goes away and the fight is over. I’m not talking about wimping out, but just talking to try to settle things calmly. On the other hand, if you respond with harsh words of your own, then the fighting continues, sometimes permanently. Walking away from a fight usually doesn’t settle the matter either, but calmly talking it out (taking your time and thinking about your words) almost always does. Look at what Proverbs 15:23 says, A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is! Also look at Proverbs 25:11, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. Don’t those verses sound beautiful? They sound so peaceful and they are so true. The most beautiful people I have ever known are not those that are beautiful on the outside, but those that are beautiful on the inside, and you can see that beauty by the words they use. Those are the people I like to be around most. Those are the people that God talks to and uses. Let’s look again at the verse we used at the beginning of our talk. Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. As I said before, the words we use have great power and how we use them will affect the lives in some way (either good or bad) of everyone we know or meet. We’ve also learned that the words we use will affect our lives. They affect our attitudes, and they affect our relationship with God.
God has given us a great responsibility. With that great responsibility comes great accountability. We will give an account to God for the words we use. Look at Matthew 12:36-37 – Jesus said, 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Vine’s Bible Dictionary defines “idle words” as ineffective or useless words. What can be more ineffective and useless than words that hurt or words that are not true. I believe you can even add profanity to the list of useless and ineffective words. Nothing good has ever come out of using profanity. Most of the time those words only cause trouble.
There are two more verses we need to look at. Look at Romans 10:9,10&13 – 9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 13For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Not only do the words we use condemn us, but the words we use will save us, the words we use to ask God to forgive our sins, and words we use to ask Jesus to be our Savior. He will do it, He said He would. God never lies. John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Again, it takes our faith, and it takes our words to make it happen.
There is one more verse we need to look at. Psalm 39:1 – I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me. The words we use are so important. Especially for the person that claims to be a Christian. The Christian is not only judged by God for the words he uses, but he is also judged by the people around him. I have to admit, I have failed many times in this area. Although I can’t take back the words I’ve used in the past, with God’s help, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with tongue”.
Death and Life are in the power of the tongue. How will you use that power? What will happen when you face God and have to give an account for the words that you’ve used. Will the words you’ve used bring death or life to those around you? Will the words you’ve used bring death or life to you? God has given us the power. How will you use that power?