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A Powerful and Timeless Weapon: The Tongue

Ken Boa


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Have you been on Facebook or Twitter (or a similar site) recently?

If so, you no doubt witnessed the power of a weapon the Bible has warned about for thousands of years—the tongue. One angry post leads to dozens of harsh replies, which in turn stir up the wrath of hundreds of others who read the replies, and so it continues. Sound familiar?

In these tense times, it is more important than ever that we heed the timeless wisdom God has given us in the book of Proverbs, especially concerning the power of the tongue.

The Timeless Teaching of Proverbs

The purpose of Proverbs is to impart practical instruction in the skill of living. It is all about moral discernment in daily life (see ). Even though Proverbs was written 3,000 years ago, its basic applications have not changed, because human nature has not changed.

Whether you’re struggling with a difficult moral decision or you simply want to know how to serve the Lord with your daily choices and actions, the book of Proverbs is an essential resource to consult.

A Matter of Life and Death

One of Proverbs’ most relevant teachings for today is its instruction on how we should use our words. In this age of fast and frequent communication (aided by technology) and explosive political issues, we have learned the hard way that the tongue is indeed “a restless evil and full of deadly poison” ( NASB).

According to Proverbs, the power of the tongue cannot be mitigated. The only question is whether that power will be used for good or for evil, for peace or for war. Consider these passages:

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ( )
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ( )
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. ( )

Words have great power. In fact, according to these passages, it is no exaggeration to say that words have the power of life and death.

Use Your Words Wisely

Do you remember a time when you were angry, but a friend’s kind response caused your anger to evaporate? How different would the outcome have been if your friend had answered harshly instead?

Your words, whether spoken in private to a friend or broadcast to the world on social media, have the power to wound or heal, to perpetuate anger or promote peace, to kill or revive a person’s spirit.

So, consider what effect your words may have in every circumstance. The best way to guard your words is to guard your heart, “for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” ( ). A humble heart will produce a gracious response, but a proud heart will breed a harsh reply.

But we don’t conjure up this humility or self-control on our own. Rather, it’s an attitude that requires the work of the Holy Spirit, producing the life of Christ in us and through us (see ). It requires the imitation of Christ’s own meekness when He went to the cross ( ).

I encourage you, therefore, to meditate on—even memorize—the above verses the Holy Spirit inspired in Proverbs (12:18; 15:1; and 18:21). There’s a reason the book of Proverbs so often repeats the same ideas in different ways. It is not enough merely to hear and know the truth about the tongue (see ). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must constantly be reminded of these truths until they sink deep into our hearts and become part of who we are, so that, ultimately, God’s Word, not our sinful desires, shapes more and more of what comes out of our mouths.

Copyright © 2020 Ken Boa, used with permission.

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About The Author


Ken Boa has been engaged in a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking for more than 40 years. An author of more than 50 books (from Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale House, and NavPress, among others), his titles include Conformed to His Image, Handbook to Prayer, Life in the Presence of God, and Faith Has Its Reasons; he is also an editor or contributor to multiple Bibles and winner of three Gold Medallion Book Awards. View a complete list of books authored by Ken Boa. As founder and president of Reflections Ministries (based in Atlanta), he seeks