My speech has an enormous influence for good or ill and is a sure guide to character. The power of what I say is indisputable. Consider the billions spent on therapy because of what others said about us when we were young. Jesus can fix that, but the effect is seen in the natural world. What I say to others matters.
What is the impact of speech? It has the power of life and death. That sounds extreme but it is true. Words can kill. Words can give life. Will I choose words that bear fruit of life?
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” | Ephesians 4:29 (NASB)
The tongue” is used throughout Scripture in both literal and metaphorical ways, especially in Psalms, Proverbs, and James. The tongue is a “small part of the body” (James 3:5), yet Proverbs 18:21 says it “has the power of life and death.” This holds true whether we’re speaking of spiritual, physical, or emotional “life and death.”
We should keep in mind that the word tongue is often a reference to the spoken word. This is a special kind of figure of speech called metonymy, in which one word stands in for another, closely related word. A common example of metonymy is seen in this sentence: “The White House issued a statement.” Of course, the White House, as a building, cannot issue statements; however, in this instance, White House refers to the President, who lives there. In the same way, when Proverbs 15:4 states, “A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit,” tongue is a metonymy. Obviously, a literal, fleshly tongue cannot crush the human spirit, but the words the tongue produces can.
- Ephesians 4:29 —Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Proverbs 10:11 — 11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
- Proverbs 10:20–21 — 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
- Proverbs 10:31–32 — 31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.
- Proverbs 16:21 — 21 The wise in heart will be called understanding, And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
- Proverbs 16:23–24 — 23 The heart of the wise instructs his mouth And adds persuasiveness to his lips. 24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
- Proverbs 25:12 — 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
- Isaiah 50:4 — 4 The Master God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.