“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” Proverbs 18:21a (CSB)
Bam. Bang. Crash.
I could hear the earsplitting commotion from my kitchen where I stood drying the last of the breakfast dishes. It was “demo day” at our house as we were replacing our old fireplace.
It was interesting and entertaining to watch the whole demo and building process unfold. Thankfully, the mason allowed me to capture videos of it for any curious, fixer-upper loving friends.
As the project was winding down, I noticed something. The contractor used many tools in his craft. Some of the same ones that he used to smash the existing fireplace to smithereens were the ones he used to carefully tap the new stacked stone pieces into place. His mallet brought destruction. But then, a few days later, it created beauty.
The same is true with our words. Though words can bring life, they can also deal a death blow.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” warns Proverbs 18:21a, today’s key verse. Have you ever been on the receiving end of life-giving words? Then, at other times, has something cruel or unkind been spoken to you, where the words lodged in your brain, bringing you sorrow each time you recalled them?
I remember the woman who first shared the gospel with me as a teen saying to me one afternoon, “I just know God has great plans for you. You love people, and you love God’s Word. I can’t wait to see where life takes you. I believe in you.”
I will never forget that conversation. Her message to this often insecure girl has stuck with me: “I believe in you.”
A few years later when I went to college, I tried out for the dance team. After tryouts, we all gathered our things to head back to our dorm rooms, awaiting the following day’s announcement telling us who’d been chosen. However, the two coaches in charge pulled me aside to speak with me.
They sat me down and said I had made the team. I was ecstatic! But, hard on the heels of this news came the stinging, awful words: “However, we would like you to lose a little weight.”
It was as if they had knocked the breath right out of my lungs. They continued, “Even though you are one of the most skilled girls, we have to keep up a certain image. Therefore, we would like you to lose a little weight. At least 10 pounds.”
“We would like you to lose a little weight.”
Although that phrase was the one going through my head, it was not what my heart heard. My heart heard this: “We would like you … if you would lose a little weight.”
Both of these phrases from my past have echoed in the chambers of my soul over the years. The life-and-hope-infusing, “I believe in you.” And the discouraging, crushing, “We would like you to lose a little weight.”
This very day, you will have many opportunities to use your words. In our interactions with the people who cross our paths — family, friends, co-workers or complete strangers — we can utter words that instill hope, wholeness and courage to others. Or our statements can kill — dashing dreams, crushing confidence and dragging someone’s spirit down.
Whether we are speaking face-to-face, talking on the phone or even using our digital tongues in a comment thread or text message, remember this: Our words are powerful, and they have consequences. Will your words be a weapon of demolition or a wonderful tool that creates something of beauty?
May we be ever mindful of the way our words might impact those to whom we speak. Let’s aspire to use our speech with godly purpose.
To build … not to break.
To bless … not to badger.
To praise … not to pounce.
Are you ready? I know you can do it. Why?
Because I believe in you.
Father, please help me carefully craft my words so they impart life and encouragement to those around me. Help me honor You with everything I say. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (ESV)
Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” (CSB)
If you want a practical guide for using your words wisely, grab a copy of Karen Ehman’s book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.
How do you stay hopeful in the space between right now and the day God answers your prayers? Join us in the First 5 app starting July 22 as we study the books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Peter and Jude in Already, but Not Yet. Don’t forget your Experience Guide to deepen your study! Click here to get your guide.
For a lovely, free, printable PDF, full of encouragement and Scriptures to help keep your speech gracious and life-giving, head to Karen’s blog.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do you have any phrases from the past ricocheting in your mind or embedded in your heart? Were they uplifting or demoralizing? Words of life, or remarks of death? Let the fact that you can still recall these words be a powerful reminder to carefully and prayerfully speak to others this week.
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© 2019 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.