“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12: 36-37
My kids didn’t grow up speaking with an Alabama accent. By the time they were talking much at all, we were living in Charlotte, North Carolina and so they all but missed out on having that nice Southern drawl. But they could always tell when Momma had been talking to Granma on the phone. For one, I would refer to myself as “Momma”. After a time of being out of the Deep South, my own accent had pretty much faded, but just a moment of talking to my mother brought it all back. Old patterns are sometimes hard to break.
Accents aside, patterns of communication are important. What we say and how we say it matters. I didn’t really understand that for a long time. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where words were not used to wound. There is great power in words, and for the most part, my folks used theirs to build me up.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
None of the words we say fall dead to the ground.
I was a grown woman before I understood the practice of speaking life and speaking truth over someone. I was really good at giving compliments to people. Southern mommas teach that to their kids. Find something nice to say or keep your trap shut. But compliments are not the same as speaking life and truth, and yet there are worse things we can do than give a compliment.
A mother can look at her son and say, “You are lazy and you will never amount to anything.” Now it may be TRUE that the boy is lazy, but that mother did not speak Truth over her son. And that boy’s enemy (Satan) will be able to use that phrase like a recording that can play over and over again in his mind. It very well could be a self-fulfilling prophecy in his life. Have you seen that happen? I have.
Real truth only comes from one place.
Jesus says, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.” (John 14:6) The Bible says that the WORD was God, and that the Word was WITH God, and that they Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:1) Jesus is the Word of God. The living word of God.
So let’s work this like an algebra problem. If Jesus is Truth and Life, and Jesus is the Word of God, then to speak truth and life into someone’s life, you must use the Word of God to do it. Now if algebra just made that much sense.
The truth of God’s word does not wound, shame, deposit guilt, and it does not manipulate… The truth of God’s word brings life, restoration, healing and real life change.
So if that mother really wanted to make a difference in that boy’s life, she should have thought more about her words. She should have ditched her hateful ones, and used God’s.
Maybe like this:
“Son, the Lord has a plan for your life and you are not likely going to find that plan sitting there vegetating on the couch. There is reward for you in hard work, but you won’t ever find a reward in laziness.” (Proverbs 16:9 and Proverbs 10:4)
Now neither approach likely would have gotten that boy to move from his lazy position in that instant. But the words of truth spoken over him would not wound him like the first example would.
It took someone speaking life and truth over my life for me to realize the difference between that and mere compliments or encouragement. Words of truth and life have greater impact. There is really no comparison.They can alter the course of a person’s life.
Now that I know about this stuff, I love it when I can do that for other people. You know when it hits the mark, too. They look up at you with wide eyes to see if you really believe what you have just said to them. And you do, because they are not your promises, they are God’s. And you know what God’s word says about those words? They never come back to us void. Never. The return on that investment may be long in coming… but it will come.
Maybe it is commonplace in your family for words to be used to wound, and you find that like my Alabama accent, it’s easy to slip into that mode without notice. We can undo a lot of things we do in this life, but we cannot take back words once they are spoken. There is the power of life and death in the tongue. It is up to us to choose life.