The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
client login


          Suppose you are part of an exercise group that walks or jogs along the same trails, pathways, or roads. Other joggers and walkers often follow the same similar route as your group. Even when the temperature drops below freezing you, your friends, or others continue meeting at the appointed time and completing the designated course. Because the temperatures are extremely frigid, however, all of the words that you and members of your group speak while exercising become frozen in mid-air.
           Suppose further that once the temperature begins to rise in the spring of the year that all of the words that had been spoken during the winter months by those who exercised along the same route begin to thaw. Thus, words that previously had existed in a frozen and invisible state could be heard by anyone and everyone. What kind of reaction would be forthcoming from others who heard the words that exited your mouth as you exercised? What might be your reaction to the realization that others were hearing words that you had spoken? Would you be embarrassed and ashamed or proud?
          Within the book of Proverbs are scores of verses that depict the importance of speech. Because words are important, our goal must be to use our tongue…our speech…in a constructive manner rather than causing destruction. Winning the battle for purity is dependent on the proper use of our tongue. Why? Because the tongue has tremendous power. In fact, verse 20 of Proverbs 18 indicates that the tongue has the Power to Satisfy. The wisdom writer asserts in parallel fashion “From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.” 
          The power of the tongue to satisfy applies both to the speaker and to the hearer. Issuing words of praise and congratulations for an accomplishment or special occasion brings a certain satisfaction. Offering words of comfort and reassurance in the midst of challenge, tragedy, or grief yields a measure of satisfaction to sweep over all parties involved. When we tell someone that God loves them, we find ourselves in a satisfying closeness with the Father. Dr. Charles Harvey was a professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when I was a student. Dr. Harvey declared “I’m never closer to the Lord than when I am telling someone else about Him.”
          A person that is quiet all of the time cannot experience the satisfying power of the tongue. Similarly, a person that is not quiet any of the time will not experience the satisfying power of the tongue. A person who is always talking is one that my mom might say “talks only to hear himself talk.”
Dissatisfaction will fill the life of the silent while an empty heart and life will follow the individual who utters empty words incessantly. Proverbs 18:20 seems to address both approaches to the use of one’s tongue inasmuch as the consequences of speech is applicable to everyone. The tongue, one’s speech, has the power to satisfy.
          In addition to having the power to satisfy, the tongue has the Power to Nullify. Whether undermining the reputation of another person or institution, the tongue can cause serious, if not irreparable damage, to one’s influence and perception by others. As such, relationships can become strained and unravel. Opportunities that appeared to be promising and bright can be nullified simply through what is said or how something is presented. The tongue has the power to nullify.
          Along the same line as the power to nullify, the tongue also has the Power to Crucify. When recognizing the fact that many fights, wars, and other deadly and potentially deadly confrontations began as the small flame sparked by words that were spoken, the crucifying power of the tongue is not mere hyperbole but a reality. Orders spoken by leaders of various organizations or groups (military, governmental, gang, etc.) leads to the cessation of life. Jesus Christ died on a cruel cross as a criminal because of Pilate’s silence in response to a misguided crowd that repeatedly shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” 
          Beyond the fact that the tongue has the power to satisfy and to cause great harm and even death (nullify and crucify), the tongue has the Power to Edify and to Fortify…to encourage, enlighten, enhance, and enrich. Likely, you have been blessed at some point along life’s journey by “A word fitly spoken (that was) like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Whether dealing with a difficult decision, going through a rough patch relationally or financially, or experiencing the grief that accompanies the death of a loved one, you have found the strength to press forward because of power released from encouraging words, kind words, challenging words and perhaps even convicting words.  
          Rabbi Arthur Segal shares a story from the Talmud about two jesters who served a particular king. The wisdom of these two jesters was known throughout the kingdom. The king gave each jester an assignment. He instructed one jester to find the best thing in the world and he instructed the other to find the worst thing in the world. When the two jesters returned to present their findings to the king, each man opened a package that contained a tongue. The king praised both jesters indicating that nothing is better and nothing is worse than the tongue because “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). 
          According to the conclusion of verse 21, every individual must accept the consequences of his or her words. Thus, bitter words stem from and lead to a bitter life. Ugly and hurtful words spoken from a posture of meanness and hatred stem from and lead to a life of meanness, hurt, and hatred. In contrast, thoughtful and kind words stem from and lead to a life that is thoughtful, kind, and loving. Such words, and the heart of goodness from which they originate (Matthew 12:34b; Luke 6:45), result in blessing both to the one who speaks and the one who hears and receives such words. 

Dear Heavenly Father, Help me to win the battle for purity in the area of my speech. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable unto you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.