Genesis 39-40 / Matthew 11

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21


There is a fable about a king who asked his cook to prepare the best dish in the world, and the cook served him a dish of tongue. The king then demanded his cook serve him the worst dish in the world. To the king’s surprise, the cook returned with the exact same dish. When the king asked him about this, the cook responded, “Oh King, there is nothing as wonderful as a tongue that is wisely and kindly used and nothing so devastating as a tongue that is carelessly and unkindly used.”


The Bible affirms this truth. With our tongues, we can make people laugh or cry; we can encourage or discourage; we can refresh or intimidate; we can build up or break marriages and nurture or sabotage friendships. James warns of the great dangers of the tongue when he writes, “Likewise, 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” (James 3:5-6).


Some of us will remember the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This rhyme is meant to help us shrug off hurtful words, but the reality is words can hurt us immensely. Cruel words are like arrows to the soul that form our character, define our defence mechanisms and create our insecurities. We are wise to watch the words we use, for we never know how a prejudiced joke or an unkind comment might negatively influence someone for the rest of their life.


Winston Churchill was a great political leader who kept British morale high through the darkest days of World War II. Yet, when Churchill wrote his father a letter about politics in his early 20’s, his father sent back a scathing response, calling Churchill’s opinions worthless and saying he would “degenerate into a shabby, unhappy, futile existence.” These comments haunted Churchill the rest of his life, and one could argue everything Churchill did after that, including resisting the Nazi threat, was greatly influenced by his disappointment over the discouraging and demoralizing attitude of his father.


Unkind words we speak to others can be terribly destructive, but kind words are a tonic for the soul. Proverbs says a loving tongue can nourish many (10:21), bring healing (12:18), cheer up (12:25), and turn away wrath (15:4). While we cannot stop others from speaking negative words against us, we can choose to speak words of life, not death, and to return unkind words with ones rooted in the love and kindness of God.


PRAYER: Lord Jesus, guard my tongue so that I only speak words pleasing to You, and thank You that I can speak words of life to others by the power of Your Spirit living within me.

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