The Power of Words

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life deathYHVH gave us the ability to communicate through spoken words. These words have much power. We can hurt with our words and we can edify. Our words create our lives, in the same way YHVH created all He did, by speaking it forth. YHVH created everything with words, He spoke and it was so. We were also created this way, in YHVH’s image, and He gave us the power to use words to create our reality on earth.

In a small way, we can see this when we respond with harsh words towards a friend or family member when we feel irritable. You have probably experienced how the rest of the day changes as a result of your words. I have experienced this and this is one good reason to think before we speak. We always have a choice, we can either give a nasty reply or at least keep quiet, if we can’t muster up the strength to say anything pleasant. Psalm 50:19 speaks of letting your mouth loose in evil. This is such a great way of saying it. When we let our mouth loose in evil, we suffer negative consequences and those in the way of our words too. That is the reality we create with our words. Have you realized how much power your words have?

It is written that death and life are in the power of the tongue.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Much is said about words and its power in the book of Proverbs. The most profound verse is this:

Proverbs 18:21
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

What does this mean?

18:20–21. A person’s words, figuratively called the fruit of his mouth (cf. “fruit of his lips,” 12:14; 13:2) and the harvest from his lips, can benefit himself when his words are positive and uplifting. However, one’s words (tongue) may bring death as well as life. A witness in a court, for example, can help determine by his words whether a defendant lives or dies. Those who love it (the tongue) refers to people who are talkative (cf. 10:19; 18:2; 20:19); they will suffer the consequences (eat the fruit; cf. 18:20) of what they say.2

We are to take this to heart, death and life are literally in the power of our tongues. For this reason, we ought to think before we speak for we have the power to destroy or to heal, to pierce or uplift. Not only other people, but ourselves too. We are sometimes our worst enemy in what we say about ourselves. How often do we speak negatively about ourselves or our lives? If someone compliments you, do you shrug it off with negative words about yourself rather than allowing those words to uplift you?

Life and death are in the power of the tongue…

I am reading a very inspiring book about this topic of words, titled “Tongue pierced.” This is what the author wrote commenting on this verse.

What you say today will—not can, but will—do one of two things: either lead you down a path toward a more purposeful, abundant life or move you toward destruction. Not physical destruction necessarily—though words can definitely be a catalyst for health issues—but the destruction of relationships, careers, momentum, joy, peace, hope, and contentment. 3

When we were children, we learned to speak in a certain way. Even before we learn to speak words, we learn tones and nuances which we will later use when we speak to others. This may be either negative or positive about other people or situations. We will transfer this to our own children and they will continue this pattern unless it is consciously broken. Furthermore, we can encourage or discourage them with our words. Our words mold their future. It creates their self-image or the lack thereof in that it creates their internal dialogue.

It is the same in marriage; a husband or wife can encourage or discourage each other. Our words can create another person’s self-talk. In this way words have the ability to do lasting good or damage. If you love somebody, you trust what they say to you is true, for this reason when loved ones criticize, it hurts more and can do lasting damage.

Every word we speak has a ripple effect ending in either life or death!

The habit of words

Our words and responses become habits. We can easily slip into the habit of criticizing or saying negative things about others. However, we can break the bad habits by becoming aware of this and focus on changing it. Here is a link to a previous article that might help you create good habits Using habits to set yourself apart. Our tongue’s have much power. Reflect on these two verses also.

Proverbs 13:3
3 The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Matthew 12:37
37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We will have to give an account of every word we have spoken.

The word tongue is mentioned 110 times in Scripture, mostly in the context of words we speak. The tongue is also compared to various things.

What is the tongue compared to?

The tongue is compared to a few things in Scripture. Let’s see what we can learn from these comparisons. It is interesting to note that 3 out of the five comparisons are negative or are things with a negative result like an uncontrolled fire, a deadly arrow, and an untamed beast. All of these comparisons show the power of the tongue

· Choice silver

Inner beauty is reflected by the words we speak.

Proverbs 10:20
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little.

Pleasant words are compared to honeycomb in the book of Proverbs

Proverbs 16:24
24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

The fruit of the Spirit is revealed not only by deeds, but also by the words we speak.

Galatians 5:22–23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

· A deadly arrow

Jeremiah 9:8
8 “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; It speaks deceit; With his mouth one speaks peace to his neighbor, But inwardly he sets an ambush for him.

Words can be swift and unexpected like a deadly arrow.·

The rudder of a ship

James 3:4–5
4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

The tongue is a small part of the body, but like the rudder of a ship, directs the direction of our lives.·

Uncontrolled fire

James 3:6
6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

3:6. The tongue is not only powerful; it is also perverse. It is small and influential but, worse by far, it can be satanic and infectious. The tongue … is a fire (cf. Prov. 16:27; 26:18–22), a world of evil. The tongue sets itself up (kathistatai) among the members, or parts of one’s anatomy, corrupting, spotting, or staining (spilousa; cf. aspilon, “spotless,” in James 1:27) the whole body and inflaming the whole course of … life (lit., “the wheel of existence” or “wheel of birth,” ton trochon tēs geneseōs). It is as though the tongue is at the center or hub of the wheel of nature and, like a fireworks display, the wheel is set on fire at the center. The more it burns, the faster it revolves until the whole wheel spins in a blaze, spitting fire in all directions. But the tongue is only the fuse; the source of the deadly fire is hell itself (lit., “Gehenna,” a place in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem where human sacrifice had been offered [Jer. 7:31] and where continuous burning of rubbish made it a fit illustration of the lake of fire). 2

Untamable beast

James 3:7–8
7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

3:7. The tongue is not only like an uncontrolled fire. It is also like an untamed beast. Every kind, or all nature (physis), of wild beasts—birds of the air, reptiles on land, and creatures of the sea—all are being tamed and have been tamed by man (lit., “human nature,” physis; thus “beastly nature” is tamed by “human nature”). But no human is able to tame the tongue!

3:8. No one can tame the tongue because it is a restless evil, an unruly, unsteady, staggering, reeling evil (like the “unstable” man of 1:8). Worse yet, the tongue is full of deadly poison (cf. Ps. 140:3). Like the poison of a serpent, the tongue is loaded with the venom of hate and death-dealing gossip.2

Now that we have grasped how much power the tongue has, we can search the Scripture to see what we should be using our tongues for.

What we should be using our tongues for·

Praise and declaring YHVH’s righteousness

Psalm 35:28
28 And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness And Your praise all day long.

Psalm 71:24
24 My tongue also will utter Your righteousness all day long; For they are ashamed, for they are humiliated who seek my hurt.

Psalm 126:2
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “YHVH has done great things for them.”·

Confess that Y’shua is Master

Philippians 2:11
11 and that every tongue will confess that Y’shua Messiah is Master, to the glory of Elohim the Father.

Utters wisdom and speaks justice

Psalm 37:30
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice.

Proverbs 10:31
31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out.

The tongue of the wise brings healing and makes knowledge acceptable.

Proverbs 12:18
18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:2
2 The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.

When we are unwise in what we say, we push people away instead of drawing them near. We see this especially in this walk we are in. We are to be sensitive about how we say things. When we offend people, they are not interested in learning more. We are not to forget this in our zealousness to share the truth.

To soothe

Proverbs 15:4
4 A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.

Overflowing with a good theme

Psalm 45:1
1 My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Sing of YHVH’s word

Psalm 119:172
172 Let my tongue sing of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.


Proverbs 31:26
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

There is also much instruction on what we shouldn’t be doing with our tongues.

What we shouldn’t be using our tongues for

Cursing, deceit, oppression, mischief and wickedness

Psalm 10:7
7 His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.


Psalm 78:36
36 But they deceived Him with their mouth And lied to Him with their tongue.

Proverbs 6:17
17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood,

Proverbs 26:28
28 A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.

A lying tongue often is a flattering tongue.


Psalm 12:3
3 May YHVH cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things;

LN 33.365–33.367 flattering, i.e., pertaining to a kind of speech which is an illegitimate form of praise 4

Not only are we not to have flattering lips, but we should keep ourselves from those with flattering lips (Prov 6:24)

Speak deceit

Psalm 34:13
13 Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.

Psalm 50:19
19 “You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit.

Use our tongue as a sword

Psalm 57:4
4 My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows And their tongue a sharp sword.

Psalm 64:3
3 Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow,


Proverbs 25:23
23 The north wind brings forth rain, And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.

This is what YHVH says about slander

Psalm 101:5
5 Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

It is clear for me, from these verses, that we have control or should have control over what we say. This control is referred to as guarding your tongue.

We are to guard our tongues

Psalm 39:1
1 I said, “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.”

The opposite of guarding our tongue is letting our mouth loose in evil, as David so aptly put it in Psalm 50:19.

Psalm 50:19
19 “You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit.

Here is another great verse about guarding our mouths.

Proverbs 21:23
23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.

9068 שָׁמַר (šā·mǎr): v.; ≡ Str 8104; TWOT 2414—1. LN 13.1–13.47 (qal) keep, i.e., cause a state or condition to remain (Job 2:6; Ps 17:4); (qal pass.) be kept, set aside (1Sa 9:24+); (hitp) keep oneself (2Sa 22:24; Ps 18:24[EB 23]+); 2. LN 37.119–37.126 (qal) guard, watch, i.e., limit access and movement of persons or objects in and out of an area, implying protection to or from the object being guarded (Ge 3:24); (qal pass.) be secured (2Sa 23:5; Ecc 5:12[EB 13]+), note: for qal act. ptcp. as noun, see 9070.5; 3. LN 36.12–36.30 (qal) observe, keep, i.e., obey a command with diligence and in detail (Lev 19:30); (hitp) observe for oneself (Mic 6:16+); 4. LN 27.55–27.60 (qal) be careful, beware, pay attention, make sure, watch oneself, guard oneself, i.e., learn or remember information and take care to watch for dangers (Dt 5:32); (nif) be careful (Ex 23:21);4

Letting our mouths loose as oppose to guarding our tongues. Self-control is the objective here. Here is a link to an article on self-control Self-discipline and Self-control. We are to learn to stop negative words before they exit our mouths. This may take some effort, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but two seconds to break one, so we are to be vigilant. We create our own reality with the words we speak. We can also transform our lives with words. We set the tone of every day with the words we speak

Be the one who speaks life

Have you noticed how contagious negative talk is? When a few people are together and one is negative, the others would quickly chime in. However, here is a challenge for you, be the one who speaks life. You may get strange looks, but it might change the direction of the conversation.

So,be the one who speaks life, not only when you are with other people, but also with yourself. Your inner-talk. If you think positive, you will speak positively.

YHVH’s Spirit in us will help us if we let Him. Here are two verses to memorize and pray every day.

Psalm 141:3
3 Set a guard, O YHVH, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 19:14
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O YHVH, my rock and my Redeemer.

May YHVH help and guide each of us as we learn and practice righteousness.


  1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
  2. Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 945). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Searcy, N., & Henson, J. D. (2015). Tongue pierced: how the words you speak transform the life you live. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.
  4. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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