Does the tongue really have the power of life and death?
The Bible says that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits" (Proverbs 18:21). Of course, the "tongue" in this verse represents that which tongues produce: words. Jesus affirmed that "on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). The words we speak will either build us up or tear us down (Proverbs 10:14; 13:2-3). Our tongue will either bring blessings or curses upon us—from both God and man—in both the present time and for eternity.
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Our words have enormous power for good or evil; yes, our tongues can even kill or save lives. For example, a false witness can cause the death of an innocent man (Proverbs 25:18), or a comforter can give hope to a suicidal person by an uplifting word (Proverbs 16:24). A slanderer can destroy the reputation of a good person (Psalm 56:2; 1 Corinthians 6:10). A seductive woman can, by her tempting words, ruin a man's life (Proverbs 23:27; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 5:3). Godly parents can teach their children the truth of God's Word (Proverbs 22:6), setting them on the path of life. A wise counselor can steer the young through the perils and vulnerabilities of their youth (2 Timothy 2:22).
The Bible vividly describes bitter words as arrows (Psalm 64:3), sharp and poisonous as a serpent (Psalm 140:3). James tells us that the tongue is like a fire, ignited by hell itself (James 3:6). How many lives were destroyed as a result of the fiery, manipulative words spoken by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and early '40s? "Violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 10:11b).
Good words give life. "A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!" (Proverbs 15:23, NKJV). Timing is important. The wise person will speak the truth when and where it's fitting and needful. The one who brags that he's "brutally frank" is the one who usually forgets the importance of timing his remarks. Someone once said, "Always tell the truth, but don't always be telling it."
The tone of our words can be just as important as their meaning. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
"The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 10:11a). The power of life and death is in your tongue. Choose life!
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