Do you know what the most destructive weapon is?
We’ve all heard about “weapons of mass destruction,” but in reality the most devastating weapon known to humanity is our tongue. In the epistle of James, we’re told that a human being does not have the power or ability (apart from Christ) to tame the tongue. In fact, James calls the tongue a “restless” evil (see James 3:8); a word used only here to describe something that is unrestrainable, unstable, and prone to great harm. James says that the tongue is “full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Poison (ios) describes venom that is emitted from a snake that paralyzes their prey so that the snake can consume them. Think about it this way: your words can immobilize another person, rendering them easy prey for the enemy to destroy. Words have the ability to wound, injure, scar, and destroy another human being.
The Proverbs are filled with challenges about the tongue. We are told that the tongue:
- Conceals violence (10:11).
- Brings ruination (10:14).
- Destroys neighbors (11:9).
- Tears down cities (11:11).
- Stirs up anger (15:1).
- Spouts folly (15:2).
- Crushes the spirit (15:4).
- Brings strife (18:6).
- Snares our soul (18:7).
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” By your words, you can declare that dry bones live again (see Ezekiel 37:7-10) or you can burn a great forest to the ground (see James 3:5-6). Paul wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Eph. 4:29). Unwholesome (sapros) describes something that is rotten, useless, or corrupted. One expositor said it refers to a word that is barren and lifeless; a word spoken in the flesh and not anointed by the Holy Spirit. Unwholesome words are similar to “empty words” in Ephesians 5:6 and Paul indicated that the wrath of God comes upon those who deceive others with empty words. Keep in mind that these unfruitful words can be written in E-mails, Facebook, texts, and Twitter, not merely spoken.
I have never ceased to be amazed by how careless believers are with their words. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.” I’ve observed believers exaggerate the truth, attempt to impress, flatter, or miss align and slander the character of others with words. I’ve had hurtful and untrue words written about me, my family, and my church. I’ve heard unkind words spoken about other churches, pastors, leaders, and denominations. I’ve heard hateful words spoken in haste toward different ethnic groups, political candidates, and world leaders. It’s unbecoming of Spirit-filled believers. Careless words have split churches, wounded pastors, and impeded the progress of the kingdom of God. And in the final analysis, Jesus said we will either be justified or condemned by our words (Matt. 12:37).
There is only one way the tongue can be tamed; we must die to ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to possess us. Then, moment by moment, we must walk in the Spirit (see Gal 5:25). Jesus is our example of walking in the Spirit and speaking under heaven’s influence. In fact, Jesus only said what the Father told Him (see John 12:50). That’s why all of Jesus’ words were filled with the Spirit and life (see John 6:63). Jesus’ words were so anointed that when He spoke demons fled, nature obeyed, elements transformed, disease dissipated, crippled limbs straightened and dead bodies were restored. Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). If Jesus only spoke under the power of heaven, then it’s possible for you and me to do the same. The New Testament believers spoke “as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:4). They spoke with power and boldness because their tongues were under the influence of the Holy Spirit. What would happen if you only spoke as the Spirit gave you utterance?
If we’ll remain in the Spirit our words can impart grace to others (see Eph. 4:29). Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person [emphasis mine]” (Col. 4:6). Proverbs chapter ten identifies some benefits of the tongue if we’ll remain in the Spirit.
- The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life (v. 11).
- On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found (v. 13).
- The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver (v. 20).
- The lips of the righteous feed many (v. 21).
- The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom (v. 31).
- The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable (v. 32).
Proverbs 11:11 says, “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.” Speak blessings over your city. Don’t let the culture define what your city will be, but declare what your city can be under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. I don’t want to speak negative statements over my city and pronounce curses. I believe that gives the enemy a legal right to attach himself to my flesh-filled pronouncements. Instead, I want my city to be exalted under the power of the Lord God Most High. What about your city?
I want to speak the right words over people, too. Rather than define what people are, I want to declare what they’re going to be under the transforming power of God. Let’s be people who “calls into being that which does not exist” (Rom. 4:17). Let’s become people whose words are influenced by a spirit of faith, so we “believe, therefore we also speak” (2 Cor. 4:13). Additionally, if we’ll remain in the Spirit then our mouth can speak prophetically into the hearts of those around us. Our Spirit inspired words will edify, exhort, and comfort those we speak into (see 1 Cor. 14:3).
What kinds of words are coming from your mouth these days?
Jesus, possess my mouth. Control my tongue. May I only speak under the impulse of your Spirit, amen