God’s Word is quite severe when describing the power of words. It says that it is through the spoken word that God created the universe:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6 NIV).
“For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps 33:9 NIV).
Only God has the power to do this, call something into existence out of nothing simply by speaking. Nevertheless, the words we speak have a power of their own, as any parent with a child knows full well. And Scripture says that we will be held accountable for the words that we say in this life:
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matt 12:36 NIV).
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. . . . By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt. 12:34,35,37 NIV).
It has been this way from the beginning. For in the beginning, God, who is good and shows his good character through what he speaks, created the heavens and the earth, speaking them into existence. And the evil one has likewise shown his evil character from the beginning through the words he speaks.
“The devil . . . was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV).
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden.”‘?” (Gen. 3:1 NIV).
It is ironic and hypocritical for the devil to question God’s motives and veracity, and thus God’s character, all the while that he is seeking to deceive the woman in the Garden through the use of words. For God is as good as his word; the devil is as bad as his. Out of the heart of the person speaking, out of his character, come words to match that character.
This does not mean, however, that an evil being necessarily speaks only evil words. For the very nature of deception is to present a good front to hide the evil underneath, and words are an ideal way to accomplish this. People are quite frequently deceived and taken in by good-sounding words, as Eve in the Garden illustrates all too sadly. It is the same today as it was in the beginning of the human race. Television commercials and politicians’ speeches are two examples that readily come to mind as illustrations of this continuing misuse of the good gift of speech which God has given to humans.
The child of God, however, is to aim to have what he or she says always be a reflection of the goodness of this gift, the goodness of the One who gave it to us. In fact, God’s Word says that how we use our tongues–the words and language we use–is a measure of how well or poorly we have aligned ourselves with God and his character.
“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (Js. 3:2 NIV).
Two points can be drawn from this statement. First, it shows the supreme importance of one’s words: They are that which judges one’s character. Therefore, it is high praise for Nathaniel when Jesus says of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (Jn. 1:47 NIV).
Jesus, who sees into the hearts of all, could find nothing false in Nathaniel’s heart. Nathaniel’s response to Jesus proves the validity of Jesus’ estimation of him: The words Nathaniel uttered in response to Jesus’ evaluation of him also reveal a true evaluation of Jesus, just as Jesus’ words revealed a true evaluation of Nathaniel. For Nathaniel said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (v. 49 NIV). In this, Nathaniel spoke truly, just as Jesus spoke truly of him. Each estimated the other truthfully–and showed it by their words.
The second point illustrated in the words of James 3:2 has to do with words as an indicator of one’s self control–or lack thereof. For the verse says that he who can control his tongue gives evidence of having control over his whole body and self, with the opposite obviously implying otherwise. Those who cannot control their own spirit or self thus cannot hide their lack of self control. It shows up not only in their words but throughout their whole body actions.
“A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart–he always stirs up dissension” (Prov. 6:12-14 NIV).
The whole body and self is involved when wickedness enters a situation, but it is the words that frequently are the telling indicator. The Proverbs passage just quoted ends on a somber and sobering note regarding the ultimate consequence for those who engage in such evil practices, whether it is “just” words or includes accompanying deeds. Verse 15 says: “Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.”
There is no remedy once one has been condemned to hell and its fires, and as previously mentioned, Jesus said that “by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt. 12:37 NIV).
It is not surprising and only to be expected that the final destination of those who misuse the good gift of the tongue for evil should come full circle to the place of origin of such evil. For James 3:6 reveals the true origin of such evil use of the tongue: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
As has been mentioned frequently here, one’s words reveal the heart. They also disclose the source or origin of the spirit that causes those words to be formed. The words that good men speak come from the right use of this good gift from the Father above. Words of evil, no matter how nicely dressed up to deceive, come from the fires of hell. Those who belong to God are warned not to be fall for the deception of words spoken to that end:
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Js. 1:16-17 NIV).
Remember the truth stated earlier in James?
“If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (Js. 3:2 NIV).
Though we may not yet be perfect in this world, God’s children are to have the perfection of their Father in heaven as their aim. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48 NIV). We are no longer to follow the evil ways of the world, including how it wrongly uses the good gift of the tongue. For we have been born anew, and our speech is to show it. For God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (Js. 1:18 NIV).
If we have been born anew through the word of truth, then our words should reflect this wondrous truth. We have received the Word of Truth, Jesus Christ, into our hearts, and our words should show it. Like the rain from heaven producing fruit from the earth. we are a kind of firstfruits of this word of truth by which we have been created and also born anew.
Thus there are these two sources of words and two ways by which they come: the rain of heaven and the fires of hell. In one of his parables, Jesus described the human heart as land upon which the Word of God is sown. Some land produces good crops from that seed; other land fails to do so. God’s Word makes clear the consequences of each:
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned” (Heb. 6:7,8 NIV).
I do not like to write about the final destiny of the wicked, but it would be foolish to avoid it or ignore it. We must be aware of all aspects of our existence. It is far too serious and important not to do so. So it is necessary to speak of such things. However, “even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6:9 NIV).
Better things. Things that accompany salvation. This salvation is accompanied by judgment, however, and that judgment has much to do with the words people say in this life.
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14,15 NIV).
Until that moment arrives, we who are on this earth have a choice. We can choose to accept the Word of Truth, Jesus Christ, who comes down to us like the gentle rain from heaven, and let that rain soften the hard ground of our hearts so that it produces fruit acceptable to God through Jesus. Or that same heart can let the fires of hell inflame the tongue to speak out against this rain from heaven. There are these two sources of our words, and in the end, all things return to their source.
The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible and it is appropriate, therefore, that it speaks mainly of last things, including the end of the world. But it also contains many references to beginnings. This is proper, since the beginning and end are intimately connected. That connection is what happens in between the beginning and the end. If God happens to a human soul in between, then the end will be glorious. If that soul refuses to let God in between, then that soul will be lost forever. For the book of end things clearly states God’s words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:21 NIV).
Water and fire play major roles in both the beginning and the end. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and water played a major role in this creation (Gen. 1:2). At the end, they will be destroyed by fire (2 Ptr. 3:7), so that at the end it will be as it was in the beginning: God alone.
But in between these two points of destiny we live our lives, and it is in this time alone that we have any choice about which final destiny shall be ours forever. The words we speak play a large role in shaping that destiny. They can be words united with the one who came down from heaven just as the rains do. Or they can be words that show echo their source in the fires of hell. Our words thus reflect their source: rain from heaven or fire from hell.
But for you, dear reader and fellow believer, I am “confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6:9 NIV).