Bible Verses and a Prayer about Words and the Power of the Tongue

  • Psalm 19:14 NASB
    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    Be acceptable in Your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
  • Psalm 141:3 NIV
    Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
  • Proverbs 10:19 ESV
    When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
  • Proverbs 12:18 NIV
    The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • Proverbs 13:3 NASB
    The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
    The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
  • Proverbs 15:1 NASB
    A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    But a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:2 ESV
    The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
  • Proverbs 15:4 ESV
    A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
    but perverseness in it breaks the spirit
  • Proverbs 16:24 NIV
    Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
  • Proverbs 17:27 NASB
    He who restrains his words has knowledge,
    And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
  • Proverbs 18:21 NIV
    The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.
  • Proverbs 21:23 NASB
    He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
    Guards his soul from troubles.
  • Proverbs 25:11 NASB
    Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
  • Proverbs 25:25 NIV
    Like cold water to a weary soul
    is good news from a distant land.
  • Proverbs 29:20 NASB
    Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
  • Matthew 12:36 NASB
    But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
  • Matthew 15:18 NASB
    But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
  • Ephesians 4:29 NIV
    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
  • James 1:26 NLT
     If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
  • James 3:3-10 NASB
    Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come bothblessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

prayerwords

One Week Without a Voice: Lesson One

I woke up last Tuesday, my throat ablaze with scratchy, swollen soreness, and when I opened my mouth to respond to breakfast requests from my kids–there was nothing but squeaky attempts at language.  I pushed out the word, “Breakfast?” and then handed around the cereal bowls as requested.  Thus ended our morning conversation.

This was a problem.  Having only finished one night of our five-night long Vacation Bible School, I had a week of speaking and singing ahead of me.  A week of object lessons and praise songs. A week of yelling out our Bible point for each night and a week of rallying excitement among the kids.

And no voice.

I gargled and drank tea.  I used throat spray and became a chain sucker of cough drops.  I drank enough water to float away and faithfully popped vitamins every night.

But my chief strategy became rest.  All day, every day I didn’t speak.  If necessary, I whispered, but mostly I was a silent member of my household.

A week as one of the voiceless got me thinking about what we say and how we say it, how our words reflect our heart, how we’re called to be listeners, and more.

Lesson One: What I Say Is Who I Am

By the end of each hushed day last week, I stepped onto the stage at church and spoke the first full-voiced words in about 24 hours.  “Welcome to VBS!  We’re so glad you’re here tonight . . . ”  My only normal vocalizations each day were lessons about God’s Word to children.

That week reminded me of the story about a woman who sought closeness to God, so she joined a convent and took a vow of silence.  One day each year, each woman was allowed to speak just two words to the Mother Superior.  After one year, the woman stood in the long line and spoke just two words when it was her turn:  “Bed hard.”  A year later, she stood in line again to say, “Food bad.”  The third time around, she stood before the Mother Superior to say, “I quit.”

“I’m not surprised,” said the Mother Superior.  “You’ve been complaining since you got here.”

I wonder, at the end of a normal day when my voice is unrestricted and I can chatter on at will, what is it that I’ve been talking about?

Complaining and whining?

Criticizing others?

Gossiping?

Correcting my kids?

Waxing eloquent about myself?

Praising God and sharing from His Word?

Encouraging others?

What about you?  How do you put your voice to use each day?

Out of necessity last week, the only way I could really use my voice was talking about God.  The moment that Vacation Bible School ended and I climbed into the minivan with my kids, I returned to a life of silent listening and, if necessary, whispered prompts to get others talking.

Words have power and impact.  They can build others up, fill their spirit with strength and courage, and point them to Christ.  But words can also rip people apart, tearing their spirits down to tiny shreds of defeated nothingness.  Indeed, “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV).

With such weaponry in our arsenal, with such power housed in a simple voicebox, you would think we’d be more cautious about what we say.  Like the nun who could only speak two words a year or like me who had 30 minutes to talk in a 24-hour day, we could prioritize and speak only what is necessary, true, and God-honoring.

But I’m not always so careful.  I sometimes forget that my voice is a precious gift and that my words have impact.  It’s too easy just to babble off whatever pops into my head sans filter.

The real issue here isn’t just speaking without thinking.  It’s that ultimately, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b ESV).

Essentially, at the end of the day if we’ve used most of our words to gossip—then we’re a gossip.

And if we’ve spent most of our day complaining—then we’re a complainer.

If our conversation has mostly been about criticizing other people—then we’re negative.

If we’ve monopolized conversations with our own opinions and thoughts—then we’re selfish and self-focused.

The words we toss about with little thought and no constraint are peeling back the covers of our heart and showing what’s really in there.  And sometimes it’s ugly.

That means we don’t just need to filter our words; we need God to do some heart changing, too.

This isn’t advocacy for fake living, pasting cardboard smiles onto our faces and pretending everything is fine when it’s not.

Even with God, we can speak with honesty.  Job, steeped in tragedy, said, “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11).  David, Asaph and other Psalmists clearly felt freedom to express hurt and anger to God.

Yet, we can survey the overall tone and content of our daily speech and discover the tone and content of our heart.  Then, we can let God change us from the inside out.

If you could only talk for 30 minutes today, what would you use that time to say?

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King