Did you know that our words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21)? That our speech is much more impactful than we sometimes want to admit (Proverbs 11:9)?
Well, it’s true.
Have you ever had a teacher, parent, or kid at school speak damaging words that sank like heavy weights deep into your heart and mind? Maybe you’ve gone years thinking you’re unintelligent because of what a teacher has said in the past. Perhaps it was that you’d never be successful because of what a superior at work has said. Have you had someone who’s supposed to love you tell you you’re not worthy of love, so you believe it? The list can go on and on.
Or maybe, the opposite is true. Maybe you have said some things that have caused serious damage to another person. Perhaps you speak in a way that puts others down instead of building them up.
Our words can bind people up in lies that were never meant to define them. Thankfully, Jesus can set us free. He breaks chains and destroys lies that have been spoken into and over us (by others or by ourselves). But the point is that we can unintentionally be someone who puts another in a cage with our words.
The Bible gives us TONS of direction when it comes to what flows from our mouths.
Ephesians 4:29 states, “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.”
Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
Proverbs 15:4 tells us, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
These are some heavy verses, and they don’t even scratch the surface. The Bible speaks heavily on this topic. It is clear that God’s plan for us is to be wise regarding the words we use.
But scripture also tells us that what comes out of our mouths proceeds from our hearts [Matthew 15:10–20]. So, when we choose to use negative speech, it is a symptom of what Jesus calls a sick heart.
Reflect on these questions for a second. What is your rhetoric like when you’re in daily conversations with your spouse, children, friends, and coworkers? What is it like when you are in a disagreement? What words are you using in your everyday conversations?
As believers, God calls us to be people who are quick to listen and slow to speak [James 1:19]. So, what does this mean for us? How can we become people who are wise with our words?
Here are three things you put into practice when it comes to using your speech, your words, the way God intends:
1️⃣ Spend time in prayer, asking God to guide your speech and give you opportunities to encourage others. If you have what Matthew 10 calls a “sick heart,” ask Jesus to renew your speech, as he is the one who has the transforming power to renew our hearts, and our speech will then follow.
2️⃣ Practice thinking before you speak. Before you respond to someone, pause, count to three in your mind, and think my response will be God-honoring or one that will, as Proverbs says, “crush their spirit.” Instead of being quick to slander, judge, or use coarse language, let’s be people who set others free by speaking life into and over them. Remember, that what you speak over them and into them carries WEIGHT. Uplift them with encouraging words. Compliment them. Speak LIFE into them. Use words that carry grace and kindness.
3️⃣ Apologize to those your words have caused harm to. Let’s be people who are quick to apologize to those we hurt and quick to turn away from our sin. Yes, we will mess up but let us continue to rest in the freedom that comes in Jesus!
My prayer today is that we as believers will be a people of example when it comes to the words that flow from our lips. Let us be examples of Christ to the watching world — that they may feel a sense of refreshment and encouragement when they’re with us because life is constantly what we’re speaking. I pray that our conversations bless and build people, especially those we’ve been given the privilege and responsibility to love. And lastly, I pray that we remember, including myself, to continue to saturate our hearts with the word of God so that the words of our mouths reflect Him.