The Strongest Muscle

When my students walk into my classroom, there is always a song playing. It could be a pop song that I’m shamelessly addicted to, a classic rock song that they’ve never truly appreciated, or something completely off the wall. There is a instant change in the moods of my students when they have something to hum, tap, and sometimes sing along with. Sharing that same spirit, here is a musical introduction to today’s blog.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” There is so much truth in that statement. Words can be sued to wound or heal one’s spirit, shape attitudes and perceptions, and form beliefs and convictions. There is a certain futility, however, to words. Words cannot serve as a substitute for concerted action.

There are two different types of proverbs included in the Bible. There are proverbs that offer a general rule but allow for exception. The second type, the ones about the nature of God, are always true.

IMG_1211As we focus on Proverbs 18:21, it is easy to identify the destructive powers of the tongue.

We have all told lies. The Lord detests lying and loves truthfulness. Proverbs 12:22 says, Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Lying has unavoidable consequences, “a false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free” (Prov. 19:5). Ultimately, lying delays the inevitable and leads to hurt. “A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin” (Prov. 26:28).

When we fail to control our tongues, we will end up hurting others. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisper separates close friends.” Many of our youth do not see the impact that their words have until it is too late. It not only damages the reputation of the person that they are talking about, but it damages their own reputation as well. Proverbs 25:9-10 says,” Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secrets, let he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.” We have the power to destroy other people. Proverbs 11:9 says, “with his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” The old axiom says, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” The key is that we should not repeat information if it hasn’t been validated.

It is easier to heal physical wounds than emotional wounds.

Finally, when we curse, we are wishing for destruction upon someone else. It is not only destructive to others, it is destructive to our own testimonies, and destructive to ourselves. Proverbs 20:20 says, “if one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.”

We cannot spend all of our time focusing on the negative, however. The Bible says that the power of life is in the tongue. Thus, our speech can be used for good as well. When we use our speech to edify and up one another we give each other life. Proverbs 10:11-12 says, “the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” When someone says something to us that builds us up, those words are precious to us. They encourage us, they reinforce our positive beliefs about ourselves. Proverbs 10:20 says, “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.”

IMG_1212I am one of the stricter teachers at my school. I am constantly giving students a hard time for being late, not having work, and not being prepared. I believe that those are key life skills and they should be learned at a young age. I refuse to coddle my students. Towards the end of the year, I get all of the students to write down one nice thing about everyone in the room. I don’t tell them why, only that ‘they will get as much out of it as they put into it’. I take those papers and I use them to create bookmarks for my students. I simply write, “Your classmates believe” and list out the different things that they said. Then, I put a section at the bottom that says, “Mr. Love believes” and I have the chance to truly encourage my students. I get them laminated and give them to them right before their final exam. It is so interesting to watch them, they refuse to ‘get excited’ around their classmates, but they keep them in the front of their binders or somewhere ‘safe’. Granted, not all students keep them (I do find some in the hallway, etc), but many hang on to them. It means a lot to them to be reminded of their good qualities. I know this, because I still have the bookmark that my 10th grade math teacher made for me.

As Proverbs 16:24 says, “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Timely words help to sooth our anxiety about the situations of this life. Proverbs 12:25 says, “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” These soothing words are good for both the hearer and the listener.

We have to be sure to protect ourselves from drama and gossip. “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Pr. 13:3). Ultimately, “for lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisper, quarreling ceases” (Pr. 26:20). Wow! If only more people understood that wisdom. We live in a sinful world, and “the words of a whisper are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Pr. 18:8).

We should pray that we use our speech to bring life, not death. We have to turn away from the ways of the world, away from gossip, slander and lies. We cannot be afraid to stand up to and rebuke those who are slanderous.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Speak life.

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