Memories of words spoken to us and by us mark each of our lives. The words of someone else have hurt each of us, and we have all wounded someone with our words. Words have caused more violence than any weapon mankind has ever created. Careless words destroy another’s dreams, tear down confidence, and instill wrong beliefs. Oh, what damage we do when we pay no attention to what comes out of our mouths.
We could avoid so much pain if we would only be intentional about the words we speak. Perhaps nothing will define us more than our words. If we want to live like Jesus, we must exercise discipline with what we allow to spill from our lips.
Every word we speak should build others up and never tear them down (Ephesians 4:29). Sarcasm and passive-aggressive speech have little place in the mouth of a Christian, and I say this as one who speaks sarcasm more fluently than English. That may sound amusing, but it can be devastating for others. Every word should encourage, give hope, and speak the truth. Without the motivation and undertone of love, our words are only clanging symbols (1 Corinthians 13:1), deafening and damaging to those who hear.
James warns us to tame our tongues because careless words can be the spark that ignites huge fires (James 3:5-6). If we’re not careful, a single word can burn down a relationship we’ve been building for years. It can destroy our witness and opportunity to lead someone to Christ and away from an eternity in Hell. That little spark from a thoughtless word can fan the flames of eternal fire in ways we cannot even imagine.
The wisdom of Proverbs teaches us that the power of life and death are in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). We can either give someone hope or destroy what little hope remains in them. A thoughtful word can inspire someone to try once more, while careless words can convince them there is no use in trying. We don’t have to actually do anything to have this effect on people. It’s all in the words we say or choose not to say. It’s why David pleads with the Lord to set a guard over his lips (Psalm 141:3). We should all pray the same prayer and ask the Lord to help us carefully contemplate whatever we might say.
Listen to Solomon again: “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). Careful words lead to life, while careless words lead to death. We do not give enough thought to our words. They can heal or destroy. When we use them to destroy, we do damage to ourselves as well. The Lord hears every word we speak. He knows the havoc we wreak with our tongues. We speak nothing in secret. Recognize the power of your tongue and guard your lips. We represent Christ in a world of darkness, deceit, and derision. Be a light that speaks truth, encouragement, and hope. Make every word that comes from your mouth intentional for the purpose of giving life to others.