Proverbs 18: 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
The average tongue weighs about 60 grams, which would represent less than 1/1000th of an average human’s body mass. Its weight is almost irrelevant as the tongue is disproportionately powerful. Beyond it’s vital roles in tasting, chewing and swallowing food, it is vital for speech.
Every athlete has felt the power of the tongue through words of destruction or words of empowerment. I have vivid memories of coaches who recklessly allowed their 70 grams to spew hurtful things to me and others around me. In contrast, on occasion I was also the beneficiary of powerful words that encouraged me to excel and lifted my self-esteem. How incredible that the same 70-gram muscular organ can within seconds spew out both medicine and poison.
How I wish I could go back and retract some of the words that my tongue formed and passed out my mouth, as a player, a coach, a referee and a parent. James really summed it up with: “7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:7-9).
Yet we do have a responsibility to guard what comes out of our mouths. James goes on to say: “10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3: 10-11). I believe this latter observation is critical – the analogy of a spring is actually extremely accurate, as there is a place inside of us that we draw on. Luke says: “45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
If you are challenged by what has been coming out of your mouth I would recommend that you do a heart inventory. Where is your relationship at with Jesus? Are you fully grafted to the vine of Jesus (John 15:1-8), or is your branch detached? You can try to correct the behaviour and work at your self control, but ultimately, when under the pressure of the moment, your mouth will speak “out of the overflow of your heart”. If your human flesh is dominating your heart, then that will be your well-spring, but if your relationship with Jesus is preeminent in your life, then when you need to dig deep in the well, when you draw on your heart, it will be Jesus who speaks. The Holy Spirit will be evident in your life and rather than poison, your mouth will speak words of healing.
Wherever God has placed you today, whether that be as an athlete, a coach, a mentor, a parent or supporter, you have at your disposal, an incredibly powerful weapon. Spend some time in prayer, and where you need to repent for callous words, do that. Then ask God to give you opportunities to use your tongue to speak words of life rather than death. Don’t let this period in your life pass you by without speaking life to whomever God has placed before you.