The Power and the Limit of Words

Misusing Proverbs 18:21 to claim human words have power reserved for God

A friend asked me to examine the claim - based on Proverbs 18:21 - that our words can cause physical sickness or healing.

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

The answer is pretty straight forward:

Bible scholars agree that the reference to life and death is related to false testimony, not health.(1)

Furthermore, Proverbs are only promises when they are re-stated elsewhere in Scripture, and no other passage in Scripture attributes man's words with absolute power to bring healing or sickness, life or death.(2)

In fact, James three devotes 18 verses to the power of the tongue, but never addresses physical sickness, healing, or death. If our words could affect our health as these false teachers claim, surely it would be directly addressed in multiple Scripture verses.(3)

We can pray for another person's healing, and if it's God's will, they will be healed. But it's not our words that heal them. It's God's power and purposes. 

If we think that we can control God's power or purposes with our words, we are sadly mistaken. 

Words are powerful. They express love, hate, kindness, hypocritical judgment, truth, or lies. They can encourage or discourage. But Scripture doesn't support the belief that human words cause sickness and death or healing and life.

In fact, Deuteronomy 32:39 says God alone has that power.
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Recently, a man debated this devotion, listing Scriptures and claiming that the Bible taught that our words save, heal, and forgive.

I think it would be helpful to include my reply here:

We are not saved by words. We are saved by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We do not receive salvation by words. We receive it by faith. No one is healed by words. They are healed by the power and purpose of Jesus. No one is forgiven by words. They are forgiven by the mercy of God. 

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." 1 Cor. 4:20. 

Words can reflect what a person believes (Matthew 15:18), or hide what he believes (Matthew 15:8). 

The only words that never return void are God's Words. Man's words do not have that power and it is blasphemy to claim they do. 

(1) False testimony might sentence an innocent person to death or set a guilty person free.
(2) To believe Proverbs are always promises, you must believe that all bad people die young and lose their fortunes and all good people live long lives and die wealthy. More on this: A Proverbial Mistake
(3) These false teachers claim that multiple passages teach this truth, but none of the passages they use directly address their claims.


If you need more to convince you that your words do not have the power of life and death, sickness and health, please take a few moments to work through the Bite Size Bible Study today. I think you will benefit from the extra explanations and Scripture passages.
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For more on healing:
Not All Promises Will Be Fulfilled on Earth
Wheelchair Miracle
Endured or Cured
The Power and Limit of Words
Misunderstandings About the Stripes of Jesus
A Message About Healing in 1 Timothy 5:23

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Misusing Proverbs 18:21 to claim human words have power reserved for God

3 comments:

  1. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. English Standard Version

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi AO,
      The Scripture you quote speaks of salvation - a wonderful promise.
      And it makes it clear that it's not simply words that save us but heartfelt belief in the work of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
      I praise God everyday that He has saved me.

      This devotion, however, speaks of physical sickness and physical death (note this clarification in the first paragraph).
      God bless you,
      Gail

      Delete

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