Sunday, September 4, 2005

A Wholesome Tongue—a Tree of Life

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
(Proverbs 15:4)
The wholesome tongue is a soothing and healing tongue. It is a tree of life. Its opposite is the perverse tongue, full of distortions and cutting remarks. The perverse tongue fractures and wounds the heart.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
(Proverbs 18:21)
Words are very powerful. They have the capacity to wound or to heal, to give life or bring death. Those who respect the power of wholesome words will eat the fruit of the tree of life.

How it is that the tongue contains such great power? It is because God created the heavens and the earth by means of the spoken word. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). For example, when God said, “Light, be,” there was light. And God saw that it was good, for His words were wholesome.

When God created man in His own image, He breathed the breath of life into his mouth. The Hebrew word for “breath” is the same word for “spirit.” God breathed His spirit into Adam, and Adam became a living spirit. The Targum Onkelos, an ancient Jewish commentary, says that man became a “speaking spirit.”

God breathes out His word by His Spirit. Paul said that “all Scripture is give by inspiration of God.” A more literal translation would be that all Scripture is God-breathed (Greek, theoneustos). It is not that God breathes into the words (which is what we understand by “inspire”), but God breathes out His words. They are not external to Himself, but come from within.

When we speak, we breathe out our words — our breathe arising from within and passing over our vocal cords. More than that, we speak by the spirit in us (only man is a speaking creature). Our words have such great power because natural reality arises from the spirit realm, just as God, who is spirit, called the physical world into existence.

Remember, the first assignment God gave to Adam was to call the animals, giving them their names. A name is a word of that tongue that calls forth and establishes the nature and purpose of the thing which is named. By naming the animals, Adam established their destinies. That is what the Bible means when it says, “And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19).

You have the power of life and death in your tongue. If you respect that power and speak the words God would speak, your words will be wholesome — a tree of life for many others as well as yourself.

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