Words are Powerful!

By Alan Wright — April 09, 2019

The right word can change a life.

Text: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV)

Words are forceful because they are symbols and symbols are enormously powerful. For example, before the gold standard was discontinued, the $20 bill was actually a symbol of gold in Fort Knox. Because the symbol was so intimately tied to the gold, the $20 bill was as good as the gold. The piece of paper had no real value, but as a symbol, it was like gold.

Words are so connected to the realities they express that the words essentially convey the reality. As you see the word “CAT,” the letters, “C-A-T” look nothing like an actual cat, but the printed word “cat” immediately conjures the image of a cat. The word “cat” isn’t an actual cat but it is permanently, symbolically connected with the actual feline creature. So, in a sense, the word “cat” is a cat.

That’s why if someone uses a racial slur we don’t say, “Well, it’s just a word and words aren’t anything important.” No, we say the opposite. Words are powerful because they carry with them intent, attitude and sentiment. If you speak a racial slur then we assume that you wouldn’t have said it unless the thought was in your heart. The utterance of the slur is proof that the racist thought actually exists in your heart – so your word is reality. Words are that powerful.

So it is no surprise that the power of words is a theme central to all of scripture. In the beginning, God created the world with spoken words. The word of the Lord at creation didn’t have magical power. Instead, God’s words represented God’s thoughts. When God expresses words He expresses Himself. God is, in that sense, His Word. This goes far to explain why John describes Jesus as the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1).

As creatures made in the image of God, we are uniquely gifted with speech. Noam Chomsky, one of the most prominent linguistics scholars in the world, has argued that: “Language is a uniquely human gift. When we study language, we are uncovering in part what makes us human, getting a peek at the very nature of human nature.” Animals can’t communicate about things that extend beyond immediate needs, but human language is unbounded. We can speak with infinite possibilities. There is no limit to how many essays, songs and novels humans can write. Your words carry boundless creative power. When you let your speech be filled with God’s grace, you help shape your world. And that’s the Gospel!

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