Once upon a time, a peasant known for gossiping and telling half-truths ran to the priest asking for help. “I want to retract all the evil things I have spoken and make peace with God and my neighbors for my vicious words.” Asking the man to meet him in the church yard, the priest went to his room and retrieved a pillow. Standing before the peasant, the priest tore open the pillow and let the feathers fly. The gentle breeze carried feathers everywhere. The priest instructed the peasant to retrieve the feathers. After hours of trying unsuccessfully to retrieve the feathers, the peasant returned to the priest. The priest said, “Words out of the mouth fly like the feathers in the wind, and no matter how good your intentions of retrieving all the ill-spoken things, there is no way to do so.”
David says to the Lord,
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Ps. 141:3)
David had asked God to help him keep control of the words he spoke “lest I sin with my tongue.” He also vowed, “I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle” (Ps. 39:1).
The validity test of every conversation is: Are the words spoken absolutely true? Are they necessary? Are they kind? Will they bring glory to God? (Phil. 4:8). If our conversation does not meet these criteria, then we should change our words. To change is completely within our power because the mouth will only speak what the brain gives it permission to say.
There is power in the spoken word.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. And those who love it will eat its fruit (Prov. 18:21).
By juxtaposing two radical alternatives, life and death, the Scriptures tell us what effects we can have on others. By slanderous words we can slay all the good one person has done and breathe new life into another by speaking words of hope and encouragement.
The most powerful responsibility of the mouth is in answering the call to salvation. Is salvation for everyone? No, it is only for those who “confess with [their] mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in [their] heart that God has raised Him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9).
The phrase “if we say” is recorded, many times in the Bible because what we say controls our destiny physically, spiritually, and eternally. When you wake up in the morning, do you say, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” or “Oh boy, another day at work – what a grind”?
The Bible addresses many of the diseases of the tongue: excessive talking (Prov. 10:19), idle or careless words (Matt. 12:36), lying (Rev. 21:8), and deceptive flattery (Prov. 29:5).
God will make us account for every word on Judgment Day. “For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:36, 37).
Our words, like feathers in the wind, can never be retrieved once they are set free. We need to set a guard over our mouths.