The Impact of Words
A Greek philosopher once invited some very influential and important guests to his home for dinner two nights in a row. He told them he was going to provide them with the best possible meal on the first night and the worst possible meal on the second night.
When his special guests arrived, the servants set before them an elaborate meal of smothered tongue. The guests asked why this would be considered the best possible meal.
The philosopher replied, “The tongue is what we use to bless people, communicate happiness, dispel sorrow, and remove despair. We also use it to help the fainthearted, inspire the discouraged, and uplift all mankind. The tongue is the very best possible meal.”
The next evening the guests eagerly returned to the philosopher’s home for dinner, this time expecting the worst possible meal. Yet once again the servants brought out smothered tongue. The guests were curious why the same entrée was served twice, and they asked how it could be so.
The philosopher replied, “With the tongue we break hearts, bring curses, scar reputations, ruin relationships, promote discord, induce strife, and set wars in motion. The tongue is the very worst possible meal.”
Matthew 12:36-37 (MSG) Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.
The philosopher’s wisdom in a nutshell: The little tool behind your teeth, the tongue, can influence your world for good or for bad. It can bring life, or it can bring death.
The Power of Life and Death
Most of us learned the saying when we were children: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That little phrase is a lie. At some point in your life, you have undoubtedly been hurt by other people’s words. You have most likely also hurt people from time to time with your own words. We can use the very same thing to bless or to curse; to heal or to hurt; to inspire or to insult; to do good or to do evil. The same instrument, “the tongue” holds the power to do it all.
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) The tongue has the power of life and death.
Words are amazingly powerful – they can either build up and encourage, or wound and cause damage. People who are constantly negative, faultfinding and critical find that their words divide relationships and discourage others. You have two ears and one mouth, which means you should listen twice as much as you talk (James 1:19).
The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about what we say. In fact, the subject of the tongue and how we use our words every day is perhaps the preeminent theme of this book. Over 150 times in Proverbs alone it refers to our tongue, lips, mouth, and our speech. With words you can either encourage or discourage people around you. Your words can build bridges or walls. Your words can create doors or barriers. Your words can create problems or possibilities.
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 6:2 (NKJV) You are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth.
Proverbs 10:19 (NIV) When words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise.
Proverbs 18:6 (MSG) The words of a fool start fights; do him a favor and gag him.
Proverbs 21:23 (NLT) Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.
Whether you believe it or not, there is the power of life and there is the power of death resident in the words of your mouth. The tongue has the power to inflict pain, to wound or destroy, or it can bless, encourage, lift up and minister grace. Words can be powerful. Words can also be very dangerous.
Words have launched wars. They have broken up countless marriages, separated life‐long friends, destroyed business relationships, split churches, and sent children down the lonely road of depression. Words may seem small and insignificant, but they can wield incredible impact.
- Words affect the economic climate of the world.
- Elections are won and lost based on words.
- Marriages can be blessed or scarred by words.
- A child’s future can be shaped by the words spoken at an early age.
- Words, whether negative or positive, can tangibly impact the quality of our life.
Everything that comes out of your mouth makes its impression and leaves its influence upon your life and the lives of others… good, bad; positive, negative; encouragement, discouragement; hope, despair; faith, fear. That’s why as a believer it is crucial that you begin renewing your thinking (Romans 12:2) with God’s Word and yield your tongue to the Holy Spirit and put your daily conversation under His control.
Our tongues can get us into trouble, more trouble than we can possibly imagine – more trouble than anything else. In Proverbs 6:16-19, God lists six things He hates – seven that are an abomination to Him. Three of the seven are sins of the tongue. The seventh that God calls an ‘abomination’ and He loathes with a passion is a sin of the tongue.
Some Christians never get free from their problems because they will not stop murmuring, grumbling and complaining about them. Paul instructed the Christians at Philippi, “Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining” (Philippians 2:14 AMP). What kinds of things do people complain about? Just about everything…
…They complain about their job, their boss, the government, the world, their neighbors, their family, the weather, home repair services, grocery store prices, other people, not being married, being married, not having children, having children… where they had to sit in church, where they had to park, and how far they had to walk. They complain about why God hasn’t yet answered their prayers. People complain about how tired they are all the time – and they are probably tired because of all the things they complain about!
2 Timothy 2:16 (AMP) Avoid all empty, vain, useless, and idle talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.
God’s Word has a great deal to say about the power and impact of the words we speak…
- God says watch your mouth and you’ll live a long and good life (Psalm 34:12-13).
- God says your mouth can be an instrument of blessing or cursing (James 3:2-10).
- God says you can be snared by the words of your mouth (Proverbs 6:2).
- God says you can sin with your mouth (Psalm 39:1; Proverbs 10:19).
- God says wise people are recognized by their words (Proverbs 10:13-14).
- God says you can encourage people with your words (Job 16:5).
- God says by your words you are justified or condemned (Matthew 12:37).
- God says your words are connected to your wellbeing (Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 15:4).
- God says taming the tongue is an indicator of your spiritual life (James 1:26).
- God says it’s our responsibility to watch the words we speak (Colossians 4:6).
- God says speaking the wrong words can ruin friendships (Proverbs 16:28).
- God says speaking the wrong words can create conflict (Proverbs 18:6).
- God says speaking the right words, in the right tone, can smooth things over (Proverbs 15:1).
- God says speaking the right words can bring you deliverance (Proverbs 12:6).
- God says your lips can snare your soul (Proverbs 18:7).
- God says the Holy Spirit can help you to control your words (Luke 12:12).
Speak Words of Encouragement
Any doctor, nurse or those who work in the medical profession will tell you that whenever there is a patient who is surrounded by positive, optimistic, and caring people who build them up, that patient has a much better chance of getting well and will normally recover a lot faster.
But when you have a patient who is alone and has no encouragement, or who is surrounded by negative, critical, pessimistic people, that person will have a much harder time getting better under normal circumstances. Why? Because words have power – positive and pleasant words literally impact our health (Proverbs 16:24).
The Bible says in Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 15:4 says, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.” Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the body.”
How blessed you are if you have somebody who comes alongside and uses words to encourage and lift you up. Doubly blessed you are if you’re an encourager and go out of your way to bless others.
- How often do you speak words that inspire others and lighten their load?
- How many words did you speak this week that were words of encouragement?
- How many of your words were used to build up, edify and strengthen others?
- How many times in the last week did you find it necessary to criticize, condemn or complain?
Anybody can sit in the critic’s corner and just tear something or someone down – that’s easy. Are you the kind of person that other people are glad to see coming into the room, or are you the kind of person that causes other people to turn and run out the door? One reason could be that they view you as a “wet blanket” … always complaining, faultfinding and negative. Make a decision to harness the power of speaking right words and refuse to be a discouraging, critical person.
Job 6:25 (NKJV) How forceful are right words!
Proverbs 25:11 (ESV) A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Everybody has to deal with problems, pressures and the battles of life. Fear, sickness, discouragement, and anxiety can attack each of us. Nobody gets a free ride from earth to heaven without facing trials, tests and troubles. How blessed you are if you can use your words to be a blessing and lift up, encourage and brighten the lives of people around you. Just remember this little rhyme…
- A careless word can kindle strife.
- A cruel word can wreck a life.
- A bitter word can hate instill.
- A brutal word can smite and kill.
- A gracious word can soothe the way.
- A joyous word can lighten the day.
- A timely word can lessen stress.
- A loving word can heal and bless.
According to the Epistle of James Chapter 3, your tongue and your words will be to your life what a steering wheel is to a car. Whichever direction the steering wheel turns, the car follows. In the same manner, your direction and course in life can be determined by the words of your own mouth.