One of the hobbies I’ve acquired since marrying David is going to the gun range. David loves to shoot, and I like tagging along. He’s a great teacher and always has tips for getting the best shot. Although I genuinely enjoy this activity, I’ve noticed a pattern in my emotions at the range. Every single time we shoot, I have the same sensation. It’s fun, but my heart pounds a little faster and my palms sweat a little more. I have the jitters from the moment I pick up the gun until I put it away for good.
Can you guess why this always happens? When we go shooting, I am acutely aware of the power of a gun. I know that what’s in my hand can kill someone. One wrong move, and I can take a life. Aware of the gun’s power, I take extra precautions to ensure my safety and the safety of those around me.
It’s not just guns that have the power to kill. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
For some reason, when I open my mouth, I don’t exercise the same caution as I do with a gun in my hand. Maybe it’s because I’m not totally convinced that my words can do deadly damage. Maybe I don’t believe that my words can wreak as much havoc on a heart as a gun does to a body. Whatever the reason, one thing’s for certain: I need to be much more careful with my words.
It’s not difficult to comprehend this Proverb. I would venture to say that everyone can think of a time when they were hurt by someone’s words. We all know what it’s like to feel dead on the inside because of an insensitive comment or cruel joke. Conversely, I hope we all have experienced the life-giving power of affirmation and encouragement.
This is a relevant issue since I spend much of my time around preteens and teenagers. I’m often appalled at what I hear, and I am frequently heartbroken at the internal damage done by words. But it’s not just young people who struggle in this area. I see it in myself, too. I see how I use words as a weapon to attack others and as a shield to defend myself. All too often my words wound rather than heal.
The good news is that Jesus was (amazingly!) never at fault in what He said. He never uttered a careless word. His words were always true and always loving. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth crushes. But it crushes in order to bind up; it breaks down in order to rebuild. Truth and love. By grace, Jesus’ perfect record has been transferred to me. He paid for my careless words, and I get His right standing. My name at the top of His résumé.
Liberated from the penalty of sin, I am set free to obey, by grace through faith. I am now free, as the Holy Spirit works in my heart, to follow Jesus by speaking words of life and truth. And as I seek to walk in a manner worthy of Him, I am reminded of my tongue’s power. It will either be an instrument of life or a tool that brings death.
Which will I choose? Which will you choose?