Words can create a world of good or a world of destruction. Our words have power. Life and death, healing and destruction, and blessing and cursing reside in the power of our words. They can build people up or; they can tear people down. How do we use our words to create a world of healing, comfort, and peace for others in our sphere of influence?
The adage is: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never will hurt me.” This statement is intimating that physical attacks may hurt, but verbal assaults will not. The “sticks and stones may break my bones” comment is cute but untrue. The truth is, one word can create worlds and destroy them in one fell swoop. Someone has said that the wounding words we say are like feathers released in a harsh wind, once said; we will never get them back. With our tongues we bless people, and with the same tongue, we curse people. This dichotomy ought not to be so. But, sadly, it is.
Corrupt Words Corrupt Our World
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul attempts to help his brothers and sisters then and his brothers and sisters now to live as faithful ambassadors in an evil world:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
So, when he says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths…,” what does Paul mean? What is corrupting talk? The word “corrupting” means rotten or putrid. The word picture is rotten fruit or food. This fruit or food is worthless, harmful, and is not good for anything. It will eventually make people sick and embarrasses the kingdom.
Do you realize that people just tolerate you?
Anyone who ever loved you is wrong.
Now I know why everyone talks about your behind your back.
You look like a before picture.
You will utterly be forgotten.
I treasure the time I don’t spend with you.
You’re just like your daddy or your momma
I can’t believe how stupid you are.
Nobody can be that dumb.
It’s apparent that God didn’t bless you with an overabundance of education.
And, the list could go on from here to eternity. Words hurt. Words create worlds – worlds of pain, destruction, and insecurity. These words are like darts that pierce the hearts of real people. These words soil and stain the soul of image-bearers. You look at this list and say how a person could say these things. Jesus tells us from where this type of language comes.
From Where Do Corrupt Speech Come?
Why do we let bad talk come out of our mouths? From where does this foul language come? Jesus says our tongue is tethered to another part of our body – the heart. The mouth is connected to the heart.
You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. Matthew 12:34
So, based on this verse, our mouths are not the issue. Our heart is. The best way you can tell what is in a person’s heart is to let them talk. Eventually, their speech reveals what they believe and who they are. Therefore, if a person’s heart is filled with hatred, it will come out in hate speech. When a person’s heart is filled with lust, it will eventually come out in sexual innuendos. When a person’s heart is filled with pride, it will eventually show up with boasting. If a person fills their heart with insecurity, it typically comes out in biting sarcasm. Eventually, our speech reveals what in our hearts. And, what’s in our hearts reveals who we are.
The antithesis is real as well. When God fills a person’s heart with grace, he will talk about second, third and fourth chances for someone who has failed. But, when a person fills their heart with life, she will speak words of hope and purpose. When a person fills their heart with love, it will eventually come out in words of sacrifice and selflessness. So, if you want to find out who a person is, just listen to their words.
Therefore, if you change a person’s heart, you will change their speech. Paul certainly knew this truth. As an unsaved rabbi, Paul was “breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). But when he trusted Christ, a change took place: “Behold, he prays” (Acts 9:11). Paul went from “preying on Christians” to “praying for Christians” in one step of faith!
The question we should be asking ourselves is not what is coming out our mouths, but what’s in our hearts? How’s your heart? Are my words on a mission to heal or to hurt? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, and often negative, the impact of our language. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “yes.” Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, “no!”
Telushkin often responds:
Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.
Use Speech That Build Up
What’s the alternative? Let’s take a look at the second half of Ephesians 4:29:
. . . but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Consequently, the alternative is to let different kinds of words come out of our mouths. Our speech should build up people where they seem to be sagging. Our words should build up. They should encourage. Our speech should bless others who are different from us. Our words should be wholesome and healing rather than rotten and wounding. Therefore, our words matter. One of the most powerful verses on speech or the tongue is Proverbs 18:21. Therefore, let’s use our words to create worlds of life, blessing, honor, and grace.
Seven Day Challenge: Through the power of the Spirit, use speech that builds up rather than tear down. Bless rather than curse others. Resist the temptation to use offensive, unwholesome, corrupting, or unkind words. Use speech that gives life.
Remember, the position of our reveals the condition of our words. So, let’s allow God to breathe new life and transform our hearts through his word.