God has imbued the power of the tongue with the ability to create either life or death. There is no way to avoid it, and we must choose. There is only one way to control the tongue, and that is to yield it to God. Under His direction, it will create life. Whether we choose life by surrender or death through self-will, we will eat the fruits of what we speak.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)
This particular verse reminds me of Deuteronomy 30:15, See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, and verse 19, I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. It’s the same choice presented to us at salvation, but it’s also one that we continually confront in our day-to-day lives. Whenever we open our mouths to speak, we must choose life or death. There is no ‘middle ground’ or spiritual no-man’s land where we can avoid what is an absolute spiritual principle. When we speak, it will be one or the other. Matthew 12:36 reminds us that But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
The power of the tongue is creative.
The Bible reveals this truth very clearly through creation, which is the manifestation of that which God spoke. He did not think it into being, He spoke it into being. In His infinite wisdom, God has ordained that the power of the tongue be creative in nature. This explains our ability to call things that are not as if they are – which is essentially to call into being things that are not. We generally regard creative power as something positive, but the truth is that it can just as easily be negative. Through the power of the tongue we can create life or death, blessing or curse. We are made in the image of God and the principle of the creative power of the spoken word is wired into us. Whether we believe it or not is irrelevant. It’s a spiritual fact that operates because God has ordained it so.
What this means is that we have no control over the existence of the creative power. If we speak it will operate because that is the will of God. What we speak will come into being. It will be established through the spoken word. We therefore cannot avoid the power of the tongue which has the ability to affect our lives and those of others around us. Looking back to Matthew 12, we must also accept that we are accountable for our idle words and through the things we create through them. We cannot plead ignorance or non-acceptance. The creative power is a sovereign power put in place by God and nothing we believe or do can change it. Every time we speak, something is created or established, either good or evil. We need, therefore, to think very carefully before we speak to be sure we speak life.
Misusing the power of the tongue.
Right up front, we must realise that the power of the tongue can and is misused. It is intended by God for good, to bring life. That is the purpose of His Word, and it must always be the purpose of those who serve Him. We live to do His will. Unfortunately, wrong doctrines on this abound. Acknowledging the power of the tongue does not justify the false teaching of the ‘name it and claim it’ gospels. These relegate God to little more than a vending machine. The presumption behind it is that if we speak it, He must do it because He has to honour the creative power inherent in the spoken word. This is very dangerous territory. It operates outside of the perfect will of God. It is our desires and expectations that take centre stage. We expect Him to serve us, not the other way around.
The purpose of the power of the tongue is not to manipulate God into meeting our greeds. Nor is it to manipulate or bully others into satisfying our needs. Tragically, the power is misused in families, among friends, and even by our spiritual authority to serve their own agendas. This leaves pain and woundedness in its wake. Instead of speaking life, they speak death in order to further their own personal gain. Emotional abuse is a vivid example where the power of the tongue is used for destruction, not good. God intends our words to build up and encourage. We use them to tear down and discourage. What emerges very strongly is the truth that unless we surrender the power of the tongue and our choices to Him, we will inevitably find ourselves abusing what He has given for life. That is the nature of humanity in a fallen world.
The power of the tongue and the Word.
There are few things more powerful than speaking the Word because this is a combination of the power of the tongue and the power of the Word. This is using the Word and the tongue as God intended – to create life. At the first, we must remember that it’s not our power but one sourced in God alone. In and of ourselves, we have no ability to ‘generate’ the spiritual power to accomplish anything. The power must, therefore, be surrendered to God. There are no grey areas here. What is not surrendered to God will automatically be surrendered to the devil. Self cannot control it or exercise it. Either God or Satan will direct the power of the tongue, and that depends on who we choose. We simply cannot expect the power of His Word to operate if there is no surrender or obedience.
God’s Word only operates in accordance with His will. The choice given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy was life or death. It was to either yield to the will of God or persist in self-will. If we are not in the will of God, He will not release the power of the Word. He will never honour what is not of Him or our attempts to misuse His Word for personal gain or self-gratification. But when the power of the Word and the power of the tongue combine in the will of God, the supernatural is unleashed. James 3 reminds us that no man can rule the tongue. I believe that’s because of the power God has given it which is fed by our desires and self-focus. God alone has the power to rule the tongue and to direct it according to His will and perfect purposes.
Declaration and the power of the tongue.
Our God never does anything without a particular purpose, and declaration is part of the divine purpose of the power of the tongue. For a believer fully surrendered in obedience to His will, declaration is a powerful way to speak His Word into every situation. I recently faced a critical illness which had its roots in a demonic attack aimed very literally at stealing my life. Prayer kept me from death but did not reverse the symptoms. While we continued to pray, I submitted myself once again to God and began to declare His Word quietly and consistently, including praise and thanksgiving. Within three days, an illness that had lasted three weeks turned and I was healed. I must hasten to say that it was all His work. He reminded me of declaration and of the power of the tongue and His Word. I simply had to be obedient.
The truth is that we know this. I had been doing it, with one significant mistake. Most of the time I thought it rather than spoke it, and He reminded me that creation came by His spoken Word, not His thought. When we think our declarations, they are thoughts and nothing more. God hears them, and they may encourage us or even strengthen us a little. But the enemy does not hear them. The Word is the Sword of the Spirit, our defensive and offensive weapon. To wield it, we must speak it. Waving an imaginary sword around in my head won’t deal with the devil. I needed to speak the Word, thereby combining the power of the tongue with the power of the Word. That combination spoke death to the works of the enemy and life to my body. When we speak His Word, God does the rest.
The fruits of the power of the tongue.
Our verse concludes with the promise that we will eat the fruits of what we speak. By ‘those who love it’ we must understand those who continually speak and who understand the power of the tongue. For those believers who don’t see life released in their lives, stop and have a look at what you speak. It’s not a matter of finding Bible verses that ‘fit’ and repeating them like a mantra. Rather, it’s about seeking first the will of God and allowing Him to govern what we speak. We must also know the Word, because that is His will revealed. Unless we know the Word, we cannot speak it. Our words will build up or break down, but when we speak God’s Word by the leading of the Spirit, He will create life beyond our imaginings. He is faithful. We will always eat the fruit of what we speak.
Father God, we thank You for Your wisdom and for reminding us of the power of the tongue. We surrender ours to You today, knowing that You alone are able to rule it and use it for life. Teach us Your Word and guide us by Your Spirit so that we may speak Your will. Forgive us for the times where we have carelessly spoken death or evil. Help us to seek You in every situation so we may be obedient and speak only what You direct.