Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)
It’s so easy to overlook the things that are ‘simply miraculous.’ Consider the heart, which has real significance, both physical and spiritual. It’s no surprise to discover that that spiritual relevance is illustrated for us in the physical revelance. There is a distinct parallel between the two, and there is also a mirrored signifance on both levels of the connection between the heart and the tongue. The two are ‘wired’ to work together automatically – the reason why we are told so often in the Bible to guard both.
From a purely practical point of view, the heart’s importance lies in the fact that it is responsible for circulating the blood throughout the body. After the flood, God informs Noah that the life of something is in the blood, and on a physiological level we see the truth of this. All things necessary to sustain and nurture life are found in the blood – nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen, and a host of others. What they are is not as important as the fact that life requires them, and the blood supplies them.
Moving forward one step, it is the heart that ensures the constant circulation of blood. If the heart doesn’t work as it should, the body won’t work as it should because those essential things of life won’t get where they need to be. The heart essentially governs and regulates the life, and the same is true on a spiritual level. Our hearts will distribute what is there, either good or bad, depending on what we have in there. Consider the verse which tells us the Word of God is life to all our flesh. If we get the word into our hearts, it will naturally ‘circulate’ or impact the rest of us – a very simple but powerful illustration.
Looking at the relationship with the tongue, we find this is the ‘power organ’ of the mouth – that instrument that controls the functions of the mouth in chewing, swallowing and speaking – very simple terms, but pertinent to our study. Anything we take in goes past the tongue, and surprisingly, this is not only a physiological truth but a powerful spiritual truth we so often miss.
We’ve all no doubt read the verse many times that ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ This is absolutely true. We will speak what is in the heart – what we believe – and our words are, in fact, the ‘fruit’ of what we have put into the heart. That’s a very simple and easily accepted principle. But we need to understand the dynamic of the ‘putting in’ to fully grasp the power of the dynamic between heart and tongue.
Consider a very familiar expression – ‘learn it by heart.’ It’s a principle on which much of our learning, both conscious and subconscious, is founded. Think of how all of us, even in old age, easily remember the nursery rhymes we learned as children. Why is that? Because, without even thinking about it, we learned them by heart – we learned them by saying them out loud, over and over, until they quite literally became a part of who we are. Learning by heart is speaking something until it is totally assimilated into our nature and personality.
This is the fundamental precept on which all forms of ‘positive thinking’ are based – nothing in the world exists except as an imitation of the things of God. The basic premise is that if we continually think and speak the positive, we will begin to believe the positive and will ultimately begin to live the positive. There is nothing inherently wrong with the fundamentals of this approach, but the problem is that they deny that God is the source of all and lift up the power of the mind and self in ‘changing our destinies.’
Positive thinking is rebellion against God. It puts human ability and power above surrender to a sovereign God. The Bible teaches us very clearly that without Christ, we have nothing and are nothing. We are accepted in the beloved, not in our own strength, value, ability or potential. This is the reason why Christianity is an offence to so many – it challenges the essence of the view that man has both unlimited potential in and of himself, and also the inherent power to change himself, his circumstances and his future. Positive thinking and speaking – which is essentially the foundation of the ‘new age’ approach – teaches that we should find and develop the god in us, our own power for divinity. The Bible teaches that we should acknowledge our weakness, humble ourselves, and allow God to live in us.
So how, then, do we reconcile the speaking-heart dynamic? It’s very simple. It’s a biblical principle, one which the world has taken and excluded God from the equation during its exposition. The dynamic is not changed or incorrect, it’s our use of it that either affirms or denies the godly principle it contains. This is why the tongue is so powerful – it will either put in the good or the bad, but the tongue does not decide. We decide. Does the tongue have any say in whether we have roast lamb for dinner or mac and cheese? Obviously not, and the same applies on a spiritual level.
We decide what we will put in, and so we decide what the ‘fruit’ will ultimately be – that which we speak out from the heart. It’s clear then, that the tongue has a double role – it both puts in and speaks out. What we learn by heart – by speaking repeatedly out loud – will determine what becomes a part of us, i.e. that which we believe, and ultimately what we manifest as ‘fruit.’ The first step is the sowing, the second the reaping. The second is determined by the first, hence the need to guard the tongue.
This is the reason why guarding against foolish speech is of such critical importance. Does what we say – particularly in reaction to situations, circumstances or emotional stress – line up with the truth. It’s important, too, to keep in mind that there are essentially two kinds of truth. There is very obvious truth of God’s Word, and it’s easy to find. Simply open the Bible. Then there is the practical situational truth, and this is so often where we go wrong.
While it is absolutely true and correct that we should at all times be conscious of and speak the Word in every single situation, we often overlook the situational truth. In everything, we should step back and ask ourselves one question: ‘What is the truth in this situation?’ The answer to that determines the Word that is applicable. But it has another advantage – it trains us to think about what we’re saying and why we’re saying it. It enables us to determine our own accountability for what we’re putting in and what we’re speaking out. It brings us to repentance, where necessary, and to a place of submisson, because we’re no longer driven by self.
The most wonderful – and challenging – truth is that both the heart and the tongue are ultimately governed by the head. Our minds determine whether or not to overindulge in what isn’t good for us, or whether we eat a balanced and healthy diet. The tongue has no say, and neither does the heart. They have a purpose and function according to that. The same is true on the spiritual level. Our head is Christ. The tongue submitted to Christ will operate according to His principles and purposes. The heart submitted to Christ will distribute the life in us that is Christ.
If we speak and believe according to Jesus, things will automatically follow the correct course. If we try to exclude Him from the process, we’re indulging the flesh and following the world. Both will lead us to destruction. The beauty inherent in all the ways of God is that He not only provides the what, but He graciously provides the how. If we start of speaking the Way, the Truth and the Life, we will continue to do so. If we ‘learn Jesus by heart,’ we will live Him. What a wonderful assurance we have in Him.
Thank You, Lord, that in all things You make the way. Help us to submit ourselves to You, to turn aside from the teaching of the world which uses Your truth to promote rebellion against You. Teach us Your Word. Help us to put into our hearts those things that are only of You, that we may know You, love You, believe in You and live You. Help us, Jesus, to learn You by heart – a heart yielded always only to You.