Summary: This evotional is part of The Anatomy of Faith series.

The Anatomy of Faith: The Tongue

This evotional is part of The Anatomy of Faith series. To watch the webcast, visit For more thoughts on life and leadership, visit

A number of years ago I read a story titled The Whisper Test. A woman named Mary Ann Bird writes about the defining moment of her childhood:

I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade who we all adore—-Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, and happy--a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back--things like: “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

“Those seven words that changed my life.”

Seven words! That’s incredible isn’t? That’s all it took. Seven words can change someone’s life. That is the power of the tongue.

As kids, most of us learned a little saying: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That’s one of the falsest truisms I know. Sticks and stones may break our bones and hurt us physically. But words are much more hurtful emotionally and they leave longer and deeper scars.

I remember meeting a guy when I was in seminary. His life was totally messed up because he had done some stupid stuff and made some stupid decisions. Guess what his dad called him growing up? His nickname was stupid.

Words are prophecies. They have a powerful impact on the people around us—for better or for worse. So it’s no wonder the Bible talks so much about the tongue.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”

Proverbs 12:18 says, “A reckless word pierces like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

“A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit”—Proverbs 15:4

“A gentle tongue can break a bone”—Proverbs 25:15

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver”—Proverbs 10:20

One of the most insightful verses in Scripture is Matthew 12:34. Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Jesus was saying that words are clues. They reveal our thoughts and feelings. They reveal who we are.

This week I was playing a little baseball with Josiah. He’s got a fat bat. And I was pitching him a whiffle ball. He had a lot of swing and misses, but he finally connected with one of my pitches. And he got pretty excited about it. I said, “Josiah, you crushed it.” He said, “I know. Jesus helped me.”

It was totally out of right field. Pun intended. It was one of those where did that come from moments. But it was so cool to see into his heart. I felt like those words gave me a glimpse of what was going on inside of Josiah.

Words are clues.

There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about the plays that Seung-Hui Cho wrote. Most of us have seen excerpts. They spewed venom. They were violent. They were hateful. And hindsight is 20/20, but those words revealed what was in his heart long before he killed thirty-two people on the Virginia Tech campus.

In some respects, controlling out tongue is one of our greatest challenges.

James 3:2 says, “We all make mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.”

Here is a profound thought. And then I want to get practical.

Every word you’ve ever said is still a sound wave that is traveling through space. According to physicists, if we had the right equipment we could recapture everything you’ve ever said. Everything you’ve ever said is somewhere in space.

That is true of the first words ever spoken. In Genesis 1, God said, “Let there be light.” And according to the Doppler Effect, the universe is still expanding. How amazing is that? Those first words that God spoke calling the universe into existence are still creating new galaxies billions of light-years away!

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Spencer Miller

commented on Jun 15, 2008

As a constant observer the 2008 presidential elections. I've noticed the human tongue at work more than ever. This is a beautifully crafted sermon by Mark Batterson, but it appears to be more of a prophecy than a sermon.

Jeanne Zimmermann

commented on Aug 10, 2008

The illustration from Mary Ann Bird is absolutely heart filling!!! Such a wonderful point it makes in the discussion of the impact of words!!! Thank you!!

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