Think about a time when words were spoken to you that have never been forgotten. Maybe it's a name you were called in middle school or a comment a teacher made to you after a failed test. Maybe it was the encouragement of a boss or the life-giving words of a mentor. Maybe it was a phrase your parents repeated often or something your spouse said about you. If there's one thing we find to be true in remembering these things that were said to us, it is that our words matter.
Our words to one another hold great impact. We likely see this in conversations with our children, arguments with our spouse, or conflict with our friends. These moments and the words we use are hugely impactful for the fruit that is born from them. One slip of the tongue and we can turn an opportunity to minister to another into an opportunity to serve ourselves. We can choose to gratify the flesh or give way to the Spirit. We are continually provided opportunities to leave a lasting impact with our words–the question is, will the words we use be used to hurt or heal?
In fact, Scripture reminds us that our words have the power to build up or tear down. James 3:5 warns us that the tongue, with a small spark, can start a great forest fire. We can hurt people deeply with the things that we say. When we gossip about, slander, ridicule, or speak unkindly toward others, we are igniting small sparks with the potential to leave them burned and scarred by our words.
On the other hand, Ephesians 4:29 encourages us to only let talk come out of our mouths that is useful for building one another up and giving grace to those who hear. We have the opportunity every day to spur one another on with the way we speak to and about one another. When we encourage, affirm, support, admire, or serve one another with our words, we can spur others on in the faith and build them up in their efforts.
For the Christian, we must remember that we are mouthpieces for Christ. We live as a reflection of Him to a watching world. This is displayed in the way we act, think, and speak. Therefore, to those around us, our words serve as a small glimpse of what Christ must be like. When we speak harshly, bitterly, unkindly, hurtfully, and disgracefully toward others, we lie about who He is and how He longs to communicate Himself to His people. But when we speak graciously, kindly, carefully, generously, and thoughtfully, we reveal the beauty of His redemptive work in our hearts and represent Him more faithfully.
With so many things in the world that threaten to steal our joy, consume us with doubt and hatred, or crush our spirits, we as Christians should do everything in our power not to throw a match into the fire. We need one another to run the race set before us. We need the emboldening words of a friend when our circumstances feel all-consuming. We need the gentle and kind words of others when we feel beat down and broken in our efforts. We need the life-giving words of those who surround us when we are tempted to believe the hopeless things of this world.
Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Our words matter, and they will produce some sort of fruit. May our words aim to plant life-giving seeds in the lives of those we speak to, and may they reflect our perfect Savior who defeated the grave so that we never have to entertain the power of death again.