The Impact of Words

May 11, 2022

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21 NIV

While everything God has recorded for us is trustworthy, many statements in the Bible can not immediately be seen to be true. We can live life and not readily or quickly see how God’s wisdom prevails. But this proverb is not one of them. You can watch it unfold in front of your eyes.

Next time at Walmart when you hear a parent railing publicly on their child, don’t avert your eyes. Look at the little one and see what happens. Death shows up. A good memory has died. Or the next time you overhear spouses fighting and demeaning each other, particularly if the tone is foul and condescending, you can almost hear the death rattle in the conversation. Things are dying as they speak.

But sadly we get used to those things. My family had our last whole family picture taken in September 2007. Dad and Mom were the centerpiece of all four families. We never dreamed this would be our last such picture. Everything seemed sunshiny in our garden. But within two weeks Mom had gotten a checkup with surprising results. She had aggressive stomach cancer. Within three weeks she was in surgery, and we knew she was in the fight of her life. The cancer was so far gone that by May 29, 2008, despite the best treatment she could receive, she was in heaven. I pass that family picture several times weekly, and every time, I see how tired Mom looked. Something was dying in her, but life was moving on so naturally none of us realized it at all until the window for change had slammed shut.

The same is true for the tongue. When you see an older person, you can virtually guarantee they didn’t get where they are without having their own hands on the wheel. Things just died at a rate they could accept, so they ignored it and did nothing. Now they are alone with no one to care or invest in them. In a nursing home you will see primarily two groups of people: Many have ruined their lives by not ruling their mouths. Others are being honored for their kind and wise tongues. Your speech will bring either blessing or cursing from both God and people, in both time and eternity. Your future will be impacted heavily by your choices and habits. Old age will tell the story you have been writing with your tongue all along.

  • It wouldn’t hurt to look deep into the eyes of the people you love and look for signs of life or death. What are you speaking into them? Look at your own eyes—are they the eyes of a vibrant, giving person whose relationships and words are life-giving? Now’s the time to make a change if needed.