“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” is one of the most widely popular but patently untrue statements uttered by young children. Young and old alike understand the destructive power of the tongue. Every one of us has inflicted verbal wounds and been afflicted by cruel words. The damage is real and can be lasting and life-altering.
In James 3:8 we are told that the tongue, “…is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”
The mouths of Christ followers are not be instruments of evil: “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10). “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…” (Proverbs 10:11a). A beautiful word picture of our mouths sprinkling forth words that bring life, encouragement, and hope. Two conditions must be met if we are to “speak life.”
The conditions for “speaking life” have to do with what fills our hearts/being. According to Jesus, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouths speaks.” (Matthew 12:34).
First of all, our heart must be right with God since it is the “righteous” from whom true words of life naturally flow. None of us is right before God on our own—“There is no-one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). The “wage” or payment we all deserve because of our rebellion is judgment (Romans 6:23). But Christ took the punishment we deserve on the cross (Romans 5:8) so that all who believe in Him are declared right before God (Romans 5:1).
In Christ the old heart, prone to criticize, ridicule, and demean, is replaced by a “new creation, the old is gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a proclivity to compliment, rejoice in, and appreciate others.
Secondly, our heart must be a reservoir of God’s truth. Imagine our life as a cup, and when it’s bumped, what spills out in our words is what fills our heart. We make a choice as to what we are filling our mind and our heart/being with. Paul admonishes believers to “set your mind on things above… put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility… let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3:2,12,16)
When these conditions are coupled with a commitment to “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6), our mouths will more consistently speak life.
Don’t delay, speak life to someone today.