The Power of Language


If you keep up with the news, or social media, or YouTube, or even hopped on the internet last week you undoubtedly saw the controversy over an inappropriate video that leaked from a fraternity at Oklahoma University. I will not post the video here, or even a link to the video for that matter – I do not want that type of content on this blog, but it is likely that you’ve seen it. Nearly 3 million views on a 10 second video. 3 MILLION.

The reason this video went viral was due to hateful speech and primarily the use of one word. A word that is hateful, offensive and completely inappropriate in any and every context. The words used in the video were so offensive that the video got two students expelled from the school and the fraternity kicked off of the OU campus.

There’s one thing that comes to mind when I think through this terrible situation: The power of language. In this case, the power of hateful and disturbing words stirred up this controversy, and rightfully so. Our words have power, our words have influence…and the scary part? Our words, according to Scripture, represent the overflow of our heart.

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34 (NIV)

I heard someone once say, “The heart is the root and the language is the fruit.” A redeemed man says different things than a lost person. Our speech should be redeemed because as Scripture tells us, our words are evidence of what’s inside.

Remember the old phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me”? It’s a lie. Words have power. They can build up, edify and encourage or they can just as easily break down, hurt feelings and discourage. Our goal when speaking should be to bring others closer to Christ, to benefit those who listen.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

When we talk, are we feeding the flesh or the spirit? Are we speaking to lift ourselves up, to make ourselves feel better or look cool, or are we focused on Christ?

In regards to this topic, most people jump directly to profanity. Yes, profanity is wrong. I said it. I do my best not to use those words and I do not see the point in using unnecessary words that are offensive to some just to look “cool” or “tough” to others. However, I’m jumping off the profanity soap box, as the Bible refers to so many other types of sinful speech as well. Whether you struggle with hateful speech (like in the video), slander, profanity, gossip, sarcasm (pointing at myself here) or have a quick temper – the same applies.

I have found gossip to be one of the most destructive things among people, women in particular. Women like to talk. Let’s face it; if men speak in sentences, women speak in paragraphs. It’s the way God wired us. For some reason, we talk bad about others in order to build ourselves up, wishing our own insecurities would go away. Everyone wants to know everything about everyone. I get it, I live in a small town and I am the pastor’s wife. It’s easy to get caught up in who did what and when and why. But that’s not what God called us to care about. He called us to love unconditionally and to use our words to build up and not tear down. I challenge you to not take part. Besides, it’s none of our business anyway.

Continuing in Matthew, verses 25-27 say:

35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (NIV)

When Jesus works in you, He works out of you. This should be evident in our speech. What do your words say about your heart? I guess judgment day will speak for itself.

  • Tylisha

    This a such a great topic. I struggle with gossiping, mostly in the work setting. I understand that I am seeking to please my flesh by doing so. I will do Better. I want to allow God’s light to shine through me, which means that noone is exempt. Thank you! Please pray for me!!

    • Alyssa Martin

      Tylisha, thank you for sharing with us, friend! I will be praying for you. Gossip can be SO difficult in the work setting especially. So many different personalities in one place! The Lord knows where you are at and will meet you there!