Many years ago, I worked in the administrative department of a high-end retail company. My office manager’s name was Sophia. She and I were about as different from each other as night is from day. Sophia was 30 years older than me and had been married longer than I’d even been alive. She had raised three children and even had a couple of grandchildren; I was just beginning my journey into parenthood with one toddler. She smoked cigarettes constantly, one after another. I hadn’t smoked in years and wasn’t too fond of our office smelling like smoke. Sophia loved the fulfillment found in running the office efficiently. Not me, I simply punched the time clock to earn a pay check while my heart yearned to be at home with my son.
In spite of our differences, we formed a fast friendship that extended beyond the walls of our dank, windowless office. We found lots to laugh about and didn’t hesitate to share our hearts with one another. We stayed in touch even after my dream of being a stay-at-home mom became a reality.
One day a couple of years after I made my exit from the professional world my phone rang. It was Sophia. I could tell by the sound of her voice that she was upset. She shared with me that tests from a recent doctor’s visit had revealed a spot on her lung and that the doctor was “concerned.”
I can’t recall the remainder of our conversation, but I remember how I felt after I hung up the phone.
I was scared – scared that Sophia could soon be taken from me and I wasn’t ready.
And angry – angry that she had intentionally made choices over the years that had harmed her body and now she was facing the consequences – consequences that would ultimately affect those who loved her.
In my sorrow and frustration I cried out to God, begging Him for her healing, asking that her addiction to cigarettes finally be broken. And thanking Him that I wasn’t so bound by an addiction that I’d be unwilling to abandon it even when I knew it was killing me. As I was praying I felt the words “The power of life and death are in the tongue” resonate through my spirit. I remember thinking it odd that such a strange sounding phrase would meander through my mind while I was having a serious conversation with God. On and off throughout the day, that phrase continued to make its way into my thoughts. In keeping with the Pharisaical attitude that had prompted my “Thank you” prayer, it didn’t even occur to me that God might be trying to tell me something.
Finally, when those same words came to me again the next day I began to reason that maybe this wasn’t just a coincidence. Now, as far as I could remember there was nothing in the Bible that talked about our tongue having power, but I decided to break out the concordance just in case. And, lo and behold, there it was! Right there in Proverbs.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
As I read the verse I was slammed with the recognition of my own self-righteousness.
- I was suddenly aware of the many times I had shared a “prayer request” with someone without allowing myself to acknowledge that it was nothing more than thinly-veiled gossip.
- Wasn’t I guilty of confidentially exposing weaknesses in the housekeeping skills of others without being willing to acknowledge that the unspoken intent was to make myself look better by comparison?
- And beyond that, how often did I participate in a conversation where someone’s personal information was shared without their knowledge or consent?
As I allowed the light of the scripture to expose the ugliness of my sin I had to acknowledge that I had an addiction just as Sophia and so many others did.
Only my addiction harmed the spirit and the soul.
With shame, I recognized that I enjoyed knowing the ‘inside scoop.’ I was faced with the repulsive realization that there was a twisted boost to my self-esteem when I discussed the shortcomings of others. Maybe I wasn’t smoking a pack or two of cigarettes every day, but I was definitely sowing death with the words that proceeded out of my own mouth.
G.u.i.l.t.y. I was guilty. And, oh, I was so ashamed.
With tears of repentance I confessed to God what He already knew and immediately I was wrapped in His forgiving embrace.
I’ve learned to carefully measure the words that I speak. I don’t always get it right, but I am always aware that what I speak WILL produce fruit. Whether that fruit is life or death is determined by my own tongue.
What kind of fruit will you see produced from the words of your mouth? It’s a heavy question, I know. But it’s a question that begs to be examined. I encourage you to be willing to allow God to show you the areas in which the words of your mouth aren’t sowing life.
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