Death and Life are in the Power of the Tongue

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  • I shared a funny experience with several friends. They thought it was funny, too. I knew they would.

    “I almost died laughing,” I concluded the story.

    Then it happened.

    One of them stopped me. “Pastor, don’t say that,” he insisted with alarm. “You don’t want to speak that into existence.”

    I was confused. Where was this coming from? What was he talking about? Why was it a crisis that I used a figure of speech?

    He cited Proverbs 18:21. Actually, he only quoted half of the verse.

    Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

    What does this verse mean?

    It means words have consequences. It does not mean words create reality.

    Let me be more specific. Your words do not create reality. God’s words do.

    The Bible is clear and consistent about this. God’s words have creative power. God speaks and men live. God speaks and men die. Literally.

    The Bible does not teach that our words have creative power. This is a Word of Faith teaching that has gone mainstream. It is called “Positive Confession.” Proponents teach that faith is a force that is activated by the words you say.

    This false doctrine is the result of hermeneutical gymnastics. It is also the result of not reading the verses before and after the one you are building your theology on.

    For instance, it is common to hear some preachers and Gospel singers refer to speaking those things that are not as though they were. These words are found in Romans 4:17. But read the entire passage. And read it clearly. Abraham believed in God, “who gives life to the dead and speaks into existence the things that do not exist.”

    God speaks things into existence. We do not. To believe our words create reality is to believe that we are “little gods,” which is another Word of Faith heresy.

    Without a doubt, our words have consequences. Ephesians 4:29 instructs…

    “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

    The words we say can either help or hurt. They can build up or tear down. Affirm or condemn. Words are like nitroglycerin. They can either blow up bridges or heal hearts.

    Your words also have personal consequences. This is what Proverbs 18:21b when it says, “and those who love it will eat its fruit.” In a real sense, you will eat your words.

    Words have consequences in this life. And words have consequences beyond this life. Jesus said,

    “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).

    There is no greater reason to watch your words than this. God is listening. And God will hold you accountable for what you say.

    So be slow to speak. Tell the truth. Speak it in love. Use wholesome words. Be a good steward of the gift of speech.

    But do not attribute more authority to your words than they have.

    God’s words create reality. Our words do not.


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.