The Power of the Spoken Word

Light of truth

 Reena Joseph

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Much has already been said and written about the powerful impact the spoken word can have on our own and the lives of others. Thoughts and words are forms of dynamite, to be handled with great care, wisdom and understanding.When provoked, we often spew out words of anger, acrimony, complaint or self-pity. The gospel of Matthew 12:37 provides a warning,“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” The message conveyed here is crystal clear – we are exhorted to be acutely conscious of the use of words in our everyday interactions.Words have the power to soothe the spirit, calm turbulence, mend fences and heal brokenness. Words also have the power to malign reputations, create rifts in relationships, and sow seeds of division and discord in families and communities.According to relationship gurus, the mouth should have four gatekeepers: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it inspirational? If everything we uttered on a daily basis were to go through these four stringent security checks, perhaps many of us would morphe into more silent versions of our current personae! On a more serious note, if we were to take these gatekeepers earnestly, there’s hope that we can discipline our tongues. In this context, it would do well to recall how James chapter 3 likens the tongue to a spark that can set alight a forest. The evangelist goes on to elaborate on the potency of the tongue – “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

How then do we fight this battle before the very course of one’s life is set on fire? Perhaps not many of us are aware that our thought lives play a prelude to the indiscriminate use of our tongues. If we are not constantly on high alert, our tongues can start wagging.The battle to rein in the tongue must begin in the thought life. Even when temptations cannot be avoided, it is possible to steer our thoughts away from sinful speech.Indisputably, it is from evil thoughts that the tongue receives nourishment; it then disseminates evil in all directions and corrupts the wider circle. Our minds are capable of sorting thoughts into good and bad categories; it can also differentiate the source of these thoughts as good or evil.To a discerning and disciplined mind, it is clear that everything that emanates from a good source can be given a free rein since the outcome will be positive and beneficial to others; thoughts that originate from an evil source must be restrained because the fallout will be disastrous. It is therefore important to discern good from evil in thoughts and words, and for such an exercise to become a way of life we have to be vigilant with our thought patterns. It is to such a code of behaviour Jesus refers to in Luke 6:45. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

Another major area of speech correction is that Christians need to focus on is what we speak about ourselves – our situations, finances, family, children and difficult circumstances. There is a widespread tendency among us to speak negatively about life’s challenges and drown in helplessness and self-pity. Negative speech patterns originate from a negative mind – a mind that has processed every trial and failure as all that is to be expected in life. There can be nothing better destined for me kind of mental dialogue. Isaiah 49:31 holds out God’s promise of hope in, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” We need to seek His grace to rise above the storm and hold on to His promises. It is His grace alone that can help us avoid negative thoughts and perverse speech patterns that negate God’s plans for each of us. If we are to progress in our journey of faith, holding on to God’s promises, we have to believe that He is a faithful God, a prayer answering God, a God of infinite potential.Trust Him; “He will finish what He has started” (Philippians 1:6).

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