Recently, a well-known minister at a highly publicized service used his words, in his own way, to challenge people to rise to a higher level of responsibility, unity, power and respect.
Unfortunately, the apparent “intent” of his message was lost because of the perceived abuse of his words during a very sensitive moment – a funeral service.
Since the beginning of time, the power of the spoken word has literally shaped and formed the world.
The first book of the Bible, Genesis tells us that God spoke and the world was formed. God spoke, and light came into existence. God spoke, and great things happened.
And while we do not have the power to speak and make literal objects appear out of thin air, we do have the power to speak things into existence.
With our words we bless and with our words we curse. With our words we hurt and with our words we heal. With our words we deliver and with our words we can imprison.
With our words we can build up and with our words we can tear down. With our words we can create an environment of peace, hope, faith and love. With our words we can create an atmosphere of anxiety, hostility, fear and dismay.
Our words, indeed, have power.
Most recently, several politicians are being taken to task because of their words. News outlets are playing their own words over and over again.
Even their advocates are struggling to defend the incendiary things that were said, one right after another over a period of years.
This example teaches us that words can come back to haunt you. Jesus warned his disciples, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak” (Matthew 12:36).
Can you imagine that? Think about the words you speak about others when you think no one is listening. Think about the conversations you hold when you think someone is not around to hear it.
What if, on that day when we stand before the Lord, a big Jumbotron-like screen is up before the world to see, showing the words that we have said. Would you be ashamed? Would you have to hang your head?
Jesus said, that we will “give an account of every idle word spoken” – every mean word, every disparaging word, every ugly word, every hurtful word. Just the thought of that should inspire us to clean up our act.
Words are expensive. We must even be careful how we engage the words that come into our minds about ourselves, about other people and about situations.
Words have the power to create. When you repeat bad words to yourself – words of doubt, words of fear, words of self-loathing – you limit what God wants to do in your life.
Jesus frequently said to those who desired to be made whole, “according to your faith, be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). If you constantly tell yourself the opposite of what you desire to change, how will it ever change?
This is not a “name it and claim it” philosophy, it is simply saying that you deplete yourself of drive, energy, vision and hope when you are constantly speaking negativity over yourself.
If you tell yourself, “I can never do this or that, I can never have this or that, I will never become this or that,” you keep yourself from even considering the possibilities. Words create a box that can contain you.
Jesus wanted his disciples and all who were listening to understand that our words reflect the condition of our hearts.
Jesus is not concerned about form and fashion. Jesus is not concerned about whether or not we “appear” to be right.
Jesus wants our hearts to be right. When our hearts are right, we want to be mindful how our words and actions affect the lives of others.
Finally, our words can give life. Proverbs declares that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
When we pray, “Lord, set a watch over my mouth, guard the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3), or when we pray, “Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight for you are my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14), we open our hearts to the leading, molding, keeping and blessing of our words.
God has given us the power to use our words to create, to speak life over others, our children, our situations and circumstances, our communities and our nations.
How are you using your words?
Senior pastor of Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland. She is the author of “Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.”