The Power of Tongue

Tongue Graphic

GRAPHIC | Cal Reeves

Over the course of my first semester, I’ve had the chance to take part in attending Chi Alpha’s on-campus ministry services. What I am about to say is not all too original, It’s mostly all taken from our campus pastor, Pierce Williams. A man I deeply appreciate for speaking the good word!

All that contextualization being said, I think that all of us at one time or another have heard the phrase, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all.” 

It’s practically elementary, dear Watson (or might I say, reader), and it doesn’t take much to understand what it means. Whether we realize it or not (or do/don’t want to admit), our tongues have so much more power than we believe them to. 

I am going to be heavily referencing biblical passages/POVs, but I think that a divine viewpoint of the world makes our understanding of this world more enriched and even more fantastical. 

The very beginning of the world, as talked about in Genesis, shows God creating the world by speaking. I think that we often consider this detail as very minor, but creation is not typically done through speaking from a human understanding. 

Creation is usually done through a hands-on process of direct action in our minds. But, this idea that matter and physical creation happens through speaking gives insight into the true power of words and the tongue. 

Speaking shows further presence within the beginning by Adam naming all the animals of creation as instructed by God, and he is quite literally in a place to proclaim identity over them. 

Smooth-speaking and words is what ends up causing the fall of humanity through the serpent twisting the Word of God and lying to Eve to lead her into deciding to eat the apple.

If it’s the very act of speaking that proclaimed identity over the animals we see today and brought us into a broken, fallen world that we see today, it can only bring one to imagine how much more our mouths, our tongues, and our speech can be deadly. 

There are a multitude, and I mean a MULTITUDE, of examples throughout the Bible of the power that is in the tongue.

God commands Moses on one occasion to strike a rock which would bring forth water for the thirsty people of Israel who were in a desert land.

On another occasion, however, God commands Moses specifically to SPEAK to the rock. That seems like a weird detail: why speak to the rock as opposed to strike it? 

I believe that there is a lesson to be understood: there is a great power in speech and in the tongue from which it comes.

I know that it’s easy to let our mouths run loose and say whatever we want! Free speech is such a contentious issue nowadays where everyone wants to be heard, but is what we are speaking truly constructive?

What false identities can we be speaking over people that can be harmful? Does the way we talk lead people on and give them false hope at times? Could we say that the things we speak and the way we use our tongue is equivalent to producing and creating life?

Another question, are we speaking when we know we’re supposed to speak?

Again, looking at another account with Moses, God’s original plan for Moses was for him ALONE to go speak to the ruler of Egypt on getting the Israelites released from slavery. Yet, Moses insists against God using him, and God brings in Aaron who does most of the talking instead. 

Later on after they’re all free from Israel, the Israelites become impatient with Moses who had gone away to talk with God and Aaron, as the main leader, lets the Israelites melt all their gold jewelry and start worshiping a literal golden cow statue. You can imagine God wasn’t too happy!

If Moses would’ve been obedient and spoke when God needed him to speak, everyone probably would’ve been saved from less hurt down along the line.

I know that there’s kinda a lot to unpack from that, and the Bible is not the lightest read. However, that’s often the beautiful thing about works like this is that we are invited to deeper thought and reflection about the way we live our everyday life. 

When we put thought to it, we realize that the words we are speaking can literally be life-producing in others’ life just as God’s words were portrayed to form creation in the beginning of Genesis.

Our friend James, one of Jesus’ disciples, has his own book within the greater scope of the Bible books that depicts just how powerful the tongue can be, albeit within a negative light:

“…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

Although we should absolutely be aware and cautious of the danger that can come with the use of our tongues, we shouldn’t live in fear of speaking. If you don’t ever speak, you can’t ever really get anything done. Speak, but speak wisely and speak life!