Question: Hello Pastor, how true and powerful is Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof?” Julie.
RESPONSE: The truth of this text is in its contextual use.
The only source of life is God (according to believers in God). He is the life (John 14:6-7) and He is the one who spoke everything into creation (Genesis 1).
So the power of life is in God and His tongue, since He spoke things into existence.
However, death is naturally in the power of sin. That is why the Bible says the sting of sin is death (Corinthians 5:21) and also the wage of sin is death (Romans 6). So death is in the power of sin not in the tongue.
We need to understand that words are powerful; that is why James 1 warns us against the misuse of the tongue.
Many people have caused revolutions through speeches and many wars have been triggered by words. Many people are motivated or demotivated by what someone said to them. Words have an impact on us and that is the miracle of the human invention, language.
Words have power and that is why we have to be intentional in whatever we say. We can manage public perception through programming our communication.
Every speaker must understand they have power over what they utter, but not over how they are perceived.
It is for this reason that a speaker must tame perception through the words he/she says.
Assuming you are a judge and have two culprits before you: one who said and the other who misunderstood what was said. You ought to handle the one who said with greater accountability than he who misunderstood.
This is what James 3:1 means: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.
The two spheres
The power of words lies in two spheres:
The first is that words are not merely abstract concepts, but things. The Hebrew translation of ‘word’ is ‘thing’.
In other words in the Hebrew ideology when you say something, you have not just set it in motion but you put it into existence. So when you speak life, you manifest and establish it in a confirmatory sense.
Note that your words are subject to reality. What I mean here is that when for instance, you say “I am rich”, your bank account does not change figures just because you said so. Rather, what you keep telling yourself leads you to behavioral patterns of garnering wealth.
That is the power of what you say, not the common norm of “confess it and get it” among some preachers.
That is Eastern spiritism and the philosophy of the law of attraction.
The second sphere is belief. What you say to yourself and what others say to you or speak into your life has its power based on how much you believe it.
If your parent made some strong statements about you and your future, the strength of those statements lies in the belief, attention and emotional attachment you attribute to them.
Belief is the vehicle of words that leads their object (person) to the destination they declared.
When we believe what God and His true servants have said about us and all His promises, we start acting on them and moving towards the same directions of those words. However, once we hearken to the devil and his agents and believe them based on what we see or what happens to us henceforth, we move towards the direction of those words.
Who to trust?
The truthfulness of the verse in question is in how we use it.
If we use it within its context knowing that it is drawn from the wisdom of the Bible, then we know that it has an advisory role rather than a doctrinal one.
We need to remember that God is sovereign over both life and death and no matter what they said about you, what God said will eventually stand and be established.
And remember, your belief determines your destiny eventually.
If you believe the words about you as opposed to what God says, you will end up at not just the wrong side of history but at the wrong side of the future as well.
Believe what God says about you, not what others say.
Answered by Pr Isaiah White.