Death and Life: Why do my words matter? A reflection on Proverbs 18:21 by Dawn Michelle Michals.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21 KJV

The other day, I had a choice.

To agree with God that this would be the perfect day.

Or, let my words declare that this is a Monday and it’s already been hard (at 7am) and that the rest of the day would be just like it.

I chose joy. And, guess what? It turned out to be a pretty good day.

But, I don’t always choose joy. I’ll just be honest.

Today, I’m going to show you some scriptures to go to when you need them. When you need to know that your words have power. And, that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Your words have power.

Several years back I attended a Christian Women’s Conference in a town close to my own. It was a three-day event with a different speaker each morning and each evening. One evening culminated in a speaker from out of town speaking on the power of our words. She said,

“The devil is going to hold on to the first thing that comes out of your mouth.”

And, that has stayed with me ever since. I want to pass that on to you today. When the doctor says you have cancer, what should you reply? When the doctor says your child has a mental illness, where do you hold to first?

If the devil holds on to the first word you say, should these words be life or death?

My God says we are healed and made whole. Here are a few scriptures to say out loud when you get that diagnosis or scare.

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD”

 Jeremiah 30:17

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”

Jeremiah 33:6 (Psssst…You–as a believer– are God’s “people.”)

The speaker continued to teach that this fact applies to every aspect of your life. I’ve used this practice on several occasions. Saying “Jesus” instead of something negative popping out of my too-eager-to-say-bad-things mouth. Being positive in my faith has stopped my pain, eased my suffering and kept me on track with the Gospel and not the world. I dare you to test it. In fact, I double dog dare ya!

Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

Your words can bring death.

No one wants to meet Negative Nancy or Negative Norm.

And, for most, we don’t want to be that person either. But, isn’t it so easy to fall into the trap of negativity and drag all of our well-meaning people along with us?

I know for me, that negative spirit tends to creep up when I’m tired or hangry. How about you?

There is a story in the bible that I often think about when it comes to the power of our words. Now, I know this guy is Jesus and all, but He taught us a powerful lesson here, and specifically says that if we trust and believe in our prayers (our words) things will happen. One day, Jesus was walking with his disciples and he became hungry–sounds more like hangry to me. He went to a nearby fig tree and found it bare of fruit. Here’s how it went down:

From some distance away he saw a fig tree with leaves, so he went over to it to see if it had any fruit. But when he got there, he found it had only leaves, because it was not the season for figs. He said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you ever again.” His disciples heard his words.

Mark 11:13-14 (FBV)

He then went about his day, but a peculiar thing happened the next morning.

The following morning as they returned, they saw the fig tree, withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had done, and said to him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that you cursed has withered.” “Trust in God,” Jesus replied. “Believe me when I say to you that if you told this mountain, ‘Get out of here and be thrown into the sea,’ and you don’t doubt in your heart, but are convinced about what you’re asking, then it will happen! I’m telling you that whatever you pray for, whatever you ask, trust that you’ve received it, and it’s yours.

Mark 11:20-24 (FBV) emphasis added

I love this stuff.

Your words matter.

Your words matter. Everything you say matters. I have a saying that I repeat often to my daughter. You see, my sweet little angel doesn’t always like to be forth coming with the truth. So, at times, I must remind her that “All you truly have in life is your word.”

I don’t think she quite “gets it” yet, but she will. And, one day her word with be truth. And, her yes will be yes and her no will be no.

Above all, my friends, don’t swear. Not by heaven, not by earth, and not by any other kind of oath. Just let your yes be yes, and your no be no, so you won’t fall under condemnation.

James 5:12 (FBV)

Your words can condemn you.

In Matthew 12, Jesus again discusses trees. He talks about how a good tree produces good fruit, while a bad tree produces bad fruit. He continues, (after calling everyone a “brood of vipers” OUCH!),

You viper’s brood, how can you who are evil say anything good? For your mouth simply says what your mind is busy thinking about. A good person brings out good from their store of good things, and an evil person brings out evil from their store of evil things. 

Matthew 12: 34-35 (FBV)

The NRSV version puts it this way:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Matthew 12:34b (NRSV)

Whatever I have brewing in my heart is going to spurt right out my mouth. Ugh. It’s true. When I’m angry, sad, discouraged, my mouth sure does like to mimic my heart.

But this is the part that gets me–that stings me. That forces me to reflect on how my words affect not only my present but my future.

I tell you, people will have to account for every careless thing they say on the Day of Judgment. For what you say will either vindicate you or condemn you.

Matthew 12: 36-37 emphasis added

We are our words.

Everything that comes from our mouth is who we are. Even in the slip ups, the regrets, the fragments we never meant to say. Today, I encourage you to keep your words close to you. Evaluate them before you release them out into the air. Will what you say build someone up, build you up, or will these words release negativity and despair? Our words matter. Each of them. And, with them, we release death or life into our world.

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.”

Proverbs 11:17 (FBV)

Did a specific scripture hit home with you today? Is it “post-it-note worthy?” Please share it below! And, if you have a go-to scripture that I didn’t mention, please share that here, too. We all need to increase our arsenal!

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8 responses to “Death and Life: Why do my words matter?”

  1. I love them all. I deal with speaking my feelings all the time. Just the type of person I am. I am learning to stop and evaluate if I should speak it or not. With some people it is easier because of who they are and how they treat others. Their kindness brings out others kindness

    1. Yes! I feel that all this goes back to our words bring life or death. Kindness (life) breeds kindness, while rude, angry speech (death) reaps just that.

  2. […] Death and Life: Why do my words matter? […]

  3. Words really do matter. We just never know how far those ripples each word will spread. Better make those words filled with kindness.

    1. Yes! I hate to think how many people I’ve hurt with my words, even from so long ago. I like how you describe it as ripples. That is so accurate!

  4. Hi Dawn… I wrote something a little longer than a standard comment about “Death and Life: Why do my words matter?” and shall be posting it shortly… this is by way of a heads-up… so you can be aware that it is on its way…

    1. moriba! My friend! I’ve missed you and your wonderfully thought-provoking comments. Thanks for the “heads up.” Only because I’m excited to see it! You are welcome here anytime.

      1. My dear Dawn… I have posted my thoughts on your thoughts…

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