Posted by: Mike Willoughby | November 9, 2010

You have the power!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reminded of the amazing power of words to accomplish tremendous good or life-changing bad.  I think we often forget that there is perhaps no greater power in this life than the power of the spoken word. 

In this life, we find ourselves completely dependent on our rather clumsy languages for expressing ourselves to one another.  Think of the discord that was created among the builders of the tower of Babel when God confused their languages.  Without the ability to express their thoughts consistently, the tower builders were hopelessly ineffective and were forced to abandon their project to reach Heaven and their unified society was destroyed.  However, destruction is not limited to situations where there is no common language.  Reflect for a moment on how difficult it can be for us to use our tongues for good even when we speak the same language!  Proverbs 12:18 reads:

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
   but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

We all experience both sides of this proverb as damaging words offend and injure us while encouraging words heal and build us up.  Psychologists tell us that many positive encouraging words are required to make up for a single negative damaging statement.  Based on that observation, one would think we would all praise and encourage each other much more frequently than we criticize and chastise each other.  However, we all too often find the opposite to be true as we pile on rash words upon rash words, each statement like an individual sword thrust that cuts and destroys. 

James 3:3-12 graphically describes the power of the small tongue to do great damage as with a tiny unattended campfire that grows to consume an entire forest. 

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

We should all remember this destructive power and think twice before we speak – especially when we are frustrated or angry.  James’ instructions in James chapter 1 to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” as we “bridle our tongues” can save us and those around us from much heartache.  However, don’t forget the positive side of the proverb.  The tongue of the wise brings healing!  Romans 12:6-8 reminds us that encouragement is a spiritual gift to be used to benefit the body of Christ. 

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

This week, let us each commit to purposefully avoid destructive rash words and go out of our way to bring healing through encouragement and praise.  You may be surprised at the healing you receive in return!   

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Previous Intersections Articles



No Authority Except from God! Confessions of an iPhone Addict Having an Eeyore Day?


  1. Words….the children of their parent heart. Your post certainly brings many thoughts. Spoken or Unspoken, words really do have meaning. Thanks Mike.

  2. Thanks, Mike, for bringing to my remembrance the seemingly small things that are really so huge. Of the thousands of words we speak daily, what percent are for encouraging, lifting up, motivating, etc. others? Your words encourage and challenge me to use my “encouraging” words more often and my frivolous words to a minimum.

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