“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” [Proverbs 18:21]
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” [Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT]
Our words are like seeds and every word we speak is like a seed planted.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by [its] fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” [Matthew 12:33-37 NKJV]
What is an “idle word”?
It is a careless or useless word. A word that is not used with intent to achieve good.
1. If we use negative words or words that are hurtful to others, it is a good indicator of our own spiritual condition.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 12:33 that a tree is known by its fruit. A good tree will produce good fruit and a bad tree will produce bad fruit. If the words that come out of our mouths are bad, they are indicative of a bad heart (bad spiritual condition). Jesus tells us that a good heart brings forth good things and a bad heart brings forth evil. In Luke 6:45 [NLT], Jesus teaches that “What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
We can therefore easily check our spiritual condition by reviewing the words we use when speaking to others. From this we can tell what is in our heart – good or evil.
2. How do I change the condition of my heart (my spiritual condition)?
By renewing our minds with the word of God. When we are born again, we are new creations in Christ (spiritually), i.e. we have a new human spirit, but our mind is the same mind we had prior to receiving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We have to go through a journey of the transformation of our mind so that our thinking is based on the word of God. As we learn what God has to say about life and how to live our lives, what we learn with our minds will transform our characters to conform to the standard of living that we find in the word of God.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” [Romans 12:2 NLT]
3. Make a positive effort to control your tongue
None of us is perfect and none of us is without sin. All of us face temptation. We all have emotions and it is our emotions that give rise to the strongest temptations to use careless words.
James 1:26 [NLT] says: “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”
So, clearly we have to consciously control the tongue because the temptation to speak evil will come.
4. What are the consequences of using careless words?
“For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.’’’ [1 Peter 3:10 NLT]
4.1 We have already heard Proverbs 18:21 which warns us of the power of the words we speak: our words can either lead us to spiritual life or spiritual death and we will reap whatever we sow with our own words (not only spiritually, but our words can also have positive or negative consequences to us and others in this life).
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” [James 3:5-6 NLT]
4.2 On judgement day, we will have to account to Jesus for the careless words that we have spoken in our lives. It is our own words that will either condemn us or justify us before Him (because those words will be evidence of our spiritual condition). In Matthew 15:11 [NLT], Jesus said: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
5. Let us see the words we use as an opportunity to sow what is good into our own lives and other people’s lives.
“Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.” [Galatians 6:7-10 NLT]
5.1 Let us be mindful of what we say about our own selves. Let us confess the positive promises of God’s word over our own lives. By doing so, we are agreeing with God’s will for our lives (through His promises in His word). The word of God is not just mere words, but they are spirit and life. [John 6:63] His word will accomplish what God has sent it to achieve. [Isaiah 55:11]
5.2 “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 [NLT] Let us use positive words towards others.