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The hand of the tongue

Proverbs 18:21

    “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those that love it will eat its fruit.”

This verse is quoted abundantly in Charismatic Christian circles, but what does it mean? The assumption is that humans have the power of death and life in their tongues and if they speak a lot about either one that is what they will have. That is exactly what it means in a very simple and straightforward way. However, let us dig deeper into this profound statement. 

    The word translated as “power” here actually means hand. So it could be restated this way: Death and life are in the “hand” of the tongue. When we exchange the word power for the word hand here, we almost do not need to go any further to understand the poignancy of the statement. It does not, however make sense to one who is reading the Word with the natural mind because tongues don’t have hands. 

    What an astounding thought, though, is delivered when the word hand is used! The implication, in fact the truth is that the tongue does have hands in the sense that the tongue creates as the hands create. We tend to think of the term “create” as an action that causes something tangible to come into existence - like creating furniture, a meal, a piece of art. Of course it does mean that but what we are often blinded to is the fact that situations are also created. In Romans 8:38, Paul gives us this clear understanding- Consider Romans 8:38:

    “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In this passage, Paul outlines creations in terms of spiritual beings and topographical landscapes but he also illustrates that death and life, as well as things present and things to come are created. These specifically refer to situations that we find ourselves in at the present time and situations that will come upon us or surround us in the future. Situations are created things and they are created by the hands of the tongue! Now, to be more specific, the phrase used in Romans 8:38: “things to come”  when boiled down means intents and thoughts in the minds of people. When we understand this, we can draw the first point, that “things to come” begin with thoughts and intents in the heart of man. It is a matter of fact that everything in the mind of every human does not come to pass- and thank God for that!!! At any rate, what then is the deciding factor that causes the thoughts and the intents lurking in the hearts of man to manifest? The answer is somewhat veiled, and it exists in the words of Jesus Christ as presented in Matthew 6:31 {KJV}

  "31 Therefore take no thought, saying….”

Jesus here implies that the way a thought is “taken” is when it is spoken. This notion squares with our study verse of Proverbs 18:21- Death and life are in the power {hand} of the tongue. 

    So then what is the understanding of the second half of Proverbs 18:21 in deep practical terms?

 “…and those that love it will eat its fruit.”

The word translated as “love” here, I’m afraid is not the usual term for love, or more to the point, its meaning does not connote the common understanding of the word love as accepted in western culture. This term for love is derived from a Chaldean word that implies to delight in, to desire, and to produce fruit. The very term indicates the results of the “feeling” of love. Where we miss it I think is that we {as westerners} do not think of ourselves as those who “love” words. We also, when prompted, would aver that we all “love life”. Which of course is understandable but absolutely inaccurate if one were to examine our manner of life and speech. 

    Instead of thinking of the verse as a statement of fact {which it is}, think about it as a key to understanding people- including and especially ourselves. Think of it like this:

    “If a person really wants to live a long and good life then the way he can do that is to only speak out loud the thoughts that he has that support that intention. Also, if a person really doesn’t want to live or thinks for some reason their lives are going to be short and turbulent, then  that person will always talk about the negative thoughts that come into their minds.”

    Proverbs 18:21 is a pointed verse in indicating the ability of the human to create their own environment, it is not simply a statement of truth as it has been dominantly offered. In Deuteronomy 30:19 God {through the mouth of Moses} tells us what to do, He says this:

    “I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, {that} I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;”

God has instructed us to choose life- we choose life with our mouths since the power to create death and life does not exist with the hands of the human but with the mouth of the human!!!

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