Nelson Mandela, who opposed the South African apartheid regime and was imprisoned for almost 3 decades, knew the power of words. He is often quoted today, but while in prison his words could not be quoted for fear of repercussion. A decade after his release he said: “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are, and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

King Solomon, author of most of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, wrote often about the power of words. He said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Words have the potential to produce positive or negative consequences (v. 20). They have the power to give life through encouragement and honesty or to crush and kill through lies and gossip. How can we be assured of producing good words that have a positive outcome? The only way is by diligently guarding our hearts: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (4:23niv).

Jesus can transform our hearts so that our words can truly be their best—honest, calm, appropriate, and suitable for the situation.