Power of the Tongue

August 25, 2021


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“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.”
–Proverbs 25:11

When I was in seminary, I spoke to a gathering of men at a drug-rehabilitation program. I met a man who had made some mistakes that contributed to his addictions. He had gotten out from under the umbrella of blessing and paid the price in rehab. But I felt tremendous empathy for him when he shared his back-story. He told me what his dad had told him every time he made a mistake as a child: “What the hell—you stupid?”

Imagine those words ringing in your ears. It was obvious by the tears in his eyes how deeply those words cut into his soul. They echoed loud and long. I’m not blaming the father for this man’s mistakes, but they were more than careless words. They were a curse that left an open wound. Is it any wonder his son made some stupid decisions? He was simply living up to, or down to, his father’s words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

We all know the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” And we all know that’s not true! Our words don’t just carry weightthey have the power to rewrite narratives. A curse can turn a comedy into a tragedy, but a blessing can flip the script the other way.

During a fragile time in my teenage years, I was given the gift of life-giving words. I was kneeling at an altar when a missionary put a hand on my shoulder and started praying over me. Then his prayer turned prophetic: “God is going to use you in a great way.” It was only one sentence, but I’ve held on to those words through thick and thin. And I’ve tried to flip that blessing by speaking life-giving words to others.

One of the most powerful blessings you can bestow on another person is well-timed words. Remember the woman who broke open her alabaster jar of perfume and anointed Jesus? Remember the way the Pharisees and the disciples criticized her? Jesus counteracted their criticism with the gift of life-giving words: 

“Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Can you imagine the way those words buoyed her spirit the rest of her life? Those are the kinds of words you have tattooed on your body or inscribed on your tombstone! Jesus blessed her with prophetic words, and they were fulfilled one more time with your reading of them!

As children of God and followers of Christ, we assume the mantle of the Old Testament priests who administered the blessing. You are part of that royal priesthood. So that lot falls to us! It’s our job to declare God’s praises and pronounce God’s blessings!

Let’s fulfill our priestly duty, but let’s not over-spiritualize blessing and cursing. These are not compartmentalized biblical concepts. Blessing and cursing are two very different ways of life, two very different ways of treating people.

If the transcript of your life were read aloud, what would your words reveal? How do you talk about people when they aren’t present? Do you berate them or brag about them behind their backs? How do you talk to people when they’re present? Do you put them down, or do you look them in the eye and compliment them to their faces?

I have a three-inch-thick file that is filled with kind notes and thoughtful letters that I’ve received from readers of my books and from people I have the privilege of pastoring. Why do I keep them? Because every word of encouragement is a keepsake! Life-giving words are to the spirit what oxygen is to the lungs!

Whose words are in your file? And whose files will you fill?

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.” –Proverbs 25:11

The right words at the right time can change the game. They can even change a life!

Excerpted from Double Blessing. Copyright © 2019 by Mark Batterson. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.


  1. Clara Margarita Hunter on August 25, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Hello Pastor Mark,

    Thank you for these words. I understand the meaning of using the right words, even when we are angry with our kids because they have made a mistake. It is amazing the impact that produces in their lives the words you use, specially when you are reprimanding them. I still remember my Dad’s words of encouragement always, not when he was mad, he taught us well. We are 5 (I’m the oldest and the only girl) kids from Chile, my Dad always worked independently and he kept us around him always, we learned from him how to be good people, and the result is visible in they way our nephews and nieces have grown to be good people too. G-D is good.
    Thank you for reminding us the importance of the words we choose to speak to others, and that even though the tong is an small muscle, it is powerful and we have to control it all the time.

    Kind regards,

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