Words – How important are they? Do they matter? What are the effects of words spoken, and what are the effects of words heard? The Scriptures shed light on these questions. This article looks at the Bible and words.
The Effects of Words Spoken
The Bible reads in Prov. 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” The tongue can yield life or death depending on how it is used. It is said that speech is the picture of the mind.
Because of this, we are warned in the Scriptures regarding the use of our tongues. Eph 4:29 reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
In other words, if we don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all.
We, as Christians, must be careful about what we say. As part of the body of Christ, we are to be filled with his righteousness and holiness. Therefore, we must not allow any “corrupt communication” to come out of our mouths. “Corrupt” means tasteless and worthless (such as gossip and slander), and it involves foul talk (such as coarse language and cursing). This kind of speech is worthless, spreads worthlessness, and leads hearers to think about worthless matters.
Not only should our words be kept clean and truthful, but also we should use words that help build others up according to their needs. We must be sensitive to the situation and the needs of anyone with whom we communicate. We must be wise in choosing our words because even good words, when used inappropriately, can be destructive instead of beneficial.
We should not speak unclearly with words that could have many applications. Instead, our words should be sincere and specifically suited to the current individual, time, and place. Our speech should edify and enlighten, not tear down. Unless we are helping the other person, our words are meaningless. What we say should benefit those who are listening. Through our words, God can move to help others and bring his grace to them.
The Effects of Words We Hear
The words we hear can affect us in many ways. Because of this, it is crucial for us to monitor what we hear.
Prov. 15:4 reads, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.“ NIV
This Scripture perfectly describes the effects of the words we hear. The tongue that brings healing is a good, positive tongue. A good tongue yields blessings. It delivers healing words to a wounded conscience by comforting it, to a sin-sick soul by convincing it that not all is lost, to harmony when it is broken by differences, compromising matters in conflict, and reconciling parties that are in disagreement. This description is a tongue that heals, described as a tree of life, with the leaves containing healing goodness.
On the other hand, a deceitful tongue is negative and wounding, for it deliverers perverseness, passion, falsehood, and filthiness, which crashes the spirit. Additionally, it injures the conscience of the deliverer and causes either guilt or grief to the hearers. Both are to be considered to crush the spirit. Hard words certainly break no bones, but they have broken many a heart.
There are numerous examples of good and bad tongues in the Scriptures. Let’s look at a couple of them. Numbers 6:22-27
22 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
This passage contains the Lord’s instructions for blessing those who wished to become Nazarites. Aaron, the priest, and his sons were to speak these words of blessing upon the perspective Nazarenes.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him,
25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” NIV
Here we have a negative tongue delivering a curse. In this passage, Noah cursed Canaan, his grandson, when he discovered what his son had done.
Therefore, we see that words can be used to bless, and words can be used to curse. However, we are encouraged to them for blessings instead of cursing. James 3:9-10 reads,
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.
10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. NIV
Here James acknowledges the dual use of words with our tongues. He knew that followers of Christ could be capable of both praise and cursing because of what he had witnessed with the disciples. As Peter promised Christ, “I will not deny you”
(Matt 26:35 NRSV), but later, he denied Jesus with oaths and curses (Matt 26:69-75). In 1 John 3:18, the apostle John says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (NIV). Previously in his life, John was willing to call down fire to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56).
Since words expose an individual’s heart, it displays the same probability to help or destroy. The tongue reflects the inner person (Matt 12:34).
May we take every opportunity to use our words for positive actions instead of negative ones.
Questions, comments, and concerns are welcomed below.