The soothing (healing) tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse (distorted, vicious, deceitful) tongue crushes the spirit. – Proverbs 15:4
Have you ever experienced a betrayal by someone who you trusted? Years ago, I suffered the pain of an undeserved betrayal. Trust, then peace, and finally unity were all destroyed as the matter was repeated; after all, “gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
Soon, what might have been a private matter became convoluted by those who were quick to judge without knowing the facts. I wish I could say that I took the hurt to God in prayer, allowed him to defend me, then forgave and happily moved on with my life. That is what I wanted to do. It is what I tried to do, at times. But what I mostly did was cry, seethe, and talk endlessly about how I had been hurt.
In the midst of that season, the bitterness of unforgiveness slithered out of my heart and into my speech. After all, “whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12:34). During my quiet times, the Lord began to speak to me about my habit of complaining about those who had hurt me. Here is what I wrote in my journal during that difficult season:
When I speak angrily about another, gossip, or bad-mouth, I am unleashing a heap of fire with my tongue. It is a spark that goes to the person who hears it and either rests on them, igniting hatred and division, or it will be thrown back at me and I will feel the ferocity of its heat. Do I really want to lay that fire down upon my loved one’s heads? Do I want my child’s spirit to be crushed and destroyed by the words I speak? I may not be speaking ill of my children, but if I speak ill in front of them, they will feel it just the same.
I must guard my tongue, for it is a wellspring of life for all who bathe in streams of healing, true, and nurturing words. But it feels like death to those who have to hear bitterness and curses; it wearies the soul and crushes the spirit. I will speak life and blessing, being powerfully transformed by it, and witnessing those around me transformed by hearing it.
Although I had read Scripture about the power of the tongue for many years, I continued to justify unwholesome speech as a “small” sin. The truth is that “those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
It is a lie that careless words are fleeting; did you know that you will be judged for every thoughtless and unprofitable word that you speak? (Matthew 12:36) That is a sobering thought that should cause us to carefully examine our speech!
Our words are powerful. We are made in the image of God, who called Creation into existence with his Word and makes himself known to us through the words of Scripture. Let us harness the life-giving power of our speech today.
A Prayer for Life-Giving Speech:
God, forgive me for the careless words I have spoken. “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). May the law of kindness be on my tongue (Proverbs 31:26), for I know that my “tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). Give me “a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary” (Isaiah 50:4). Grant boldness and wisdom so that when I begin to speak, the right words will come to me so I can fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. Let me claim it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19,20). In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.