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."

When I studied commentaries, I found that most Bible scholars agree that the reference to life and death is related to false testimony, not health.

Next, I let the rest of Scripture interpret this verse, studying other passages to see if any confirmed this Proverbs 18:21 doctrine.

I couldn't find a single passage (not even Proverbs 18:21) that clearly or directly attributed sickness to spoken words.

James three devotes 18 verses to the power of the tongue, but never addresses physical sickness, healing, or death.

I concluded that words are powerful. They express love, hate, encouragement, hypocritical judgment, truth, or lies. But Scripture doesn't support the belief that human words alone cause life or death.*

In fact, Deuteronomy 32:39 says God alone has that power.

* unless, of course, it refers to giving testimony that convicts or acquits a murder suspect, as most Bible Scholars believe is the intent of Proverbs 18:21.

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


  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

    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,


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