In Proverbs 18:20-21 the Bible says, “from the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” That analogy is saying that were are nourished by the words we speak. A flow of negative, degrading speak toward ourselves or others may be likened to eating fruit that is full of maggots. We can choose to eat of that and feed it to others. We can, but it isn’t the best choice. The more we eat of it, the more we can believe there is nothing better or if there is we don’t deserve it. But it will kill us. There is a disease called myiasis that is caused by ingesting maggots. Having taken residence in one’s mouth, stomach, and intestines these maggots will eat away at the tissue and without medical intervention can cause bacterial poisoning even becoming fatal. That is disgusting! The choice to give that to ourselves is horrifying and sometimes not only do we treat ourselves with that unjustifiable abuse, but we also pass it off on others. When giving that same disgusting and fatal food to those around us it can only have 2 effects. It will either condition them to believe they likewise deserve nothing better than the bug-infested cast-offs or knowing their worth they will not put up with being fed that rotten food for long. It will bring death to them or death to your relationship with them.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
I struggle with my words greatly. There is no condemnation if you do as well, but it is a serious situation we put ourselves and others in every time we speak. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We have to start recognizing when we are speaking words that contain maggots. It will take practice but we have to start spitting that out! Life-giving words we consume will have the opposite effect. They will nourish and strengthen us. This goes beyond platitudes and self-affirming quips. Those are vapid phrases, like eating a piece of fruit that has been hollowed out by a worm. We need more. Our soul needs rich and unmodified truth from the Word of God. Please don’t misunderstand. I love a scripture image on Facebook or Instagram or a paraphrased statement that references a Biblical truth. Those reignite truth I have heard and know from God, but have forgotten or just need to be reminded of. However, we have to ourselves be in the Word of God to have something reignited or reminded. Our sole digestion of these truths can’t come without context or personal revelation. I have made a habit of taking a few minutes to look up Biblical truths I see on social media and read the surrounding verses. There isn’t always time for a deep study, but taking moment to pray about or simply see the background will help. If we are honest, there are times a pretty verse is taken out of context, or the truth behind it hasn’t become real to us. In those times our hunger might be pacified but it leads us to a wrong belief or doesn’t fulfill us long-term.
When it comes to speaking life-giving, fulfilling truth I have heard people say if I wouldn’t say something to a friend I shouldn’t say it to myself. Let me be honest, it has little effect. I would travel to the best farms to handpick organic, non-GMO, perfectly ripe fruit for my friends. I see their worth. I see their value and how they were created in God’s image. Even with their flaws (because we all have them), I have an overwhelming amount of respect and love for them. I want them to be filled and strengthened by the words I speak. I don’t want to give them something hollow, much less rotten. It is difficult for me to see myself in the same light so that motto doesn’t have the desired effect. I need something a little bit more substantial to fight the infection that is coursing through my system as a result of years of death-speak.
The association with maggots helps do the trick. A picture image of feeding myself maggots and having them consume me from the inside is a pretty powerful one. I might be able to distance myself from the connection of my words to life or death, but maggots are pretty revolting. Take a minute to really think about that. Picture bugs hatching in your mouth, do a Google search, watch a YouTube video, and really commit that to your mind. Every time you speak, whether you struggle to speak life-giving, God-honoring language to yourself or others bring those pictures and images to your remembrance. Analyze what you are about to ingest or feed others. If something slips, get it out. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working,” says James 5:16. Repent as soon as you notice. Send a text or say it aloud to the person. Admit that you shouldn’t have been snacking from the discard pile.
Another way God is helping me is through my son. There is a lot of stuff that I would probably do if God didn’t remind me constantly little eyes are watching and learning from me. That’s not the best, because as a Christian I should realize that the eyes of the unsaved, those who have wandered from God, and those who are still maturing in their faith are always watching. However, I am human and at times incredibly selfish; sometimes I need something that hits a little closer to home to help my reluctant heart submit to change. In that, God asked me a question. If someone went to my son and said the same things I say to myself, how would I react? For example, I struggle greatly with my weight and have some very long-standing disordered eating that I am working through. What if someone told my son, “Your mommy is fat and she doesn’t deserve to eat today.” Or, in speaking to my struggle with God’s grace and forgiveness what if he heard, “Your mommy made a mistake, Jesus doesn’t love her anymore and God doesn’t want to talk to her.” I can reconcile not saying mean things to my friends because they are different people. I can’t come to terms with the truth that the words I speak around my son or even the thoughts that inform my actions have a grave impact. It’s not acceptable; it produces death in his life and others as they relate to God and see themselves using the example I am setting.
Take moment to feel the weight and sting of that. Do you see the maggots? Do you see death? In this moment, spend some time on your knees. Ask God where He would have you become a giver of life and substance and where there may be room for improvement. The self-check systems I mentioned before might not work for you, but the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Jesus says, as accounted in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” You can rely on Him to show you how to nourish yourself and others with wholesome talk.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29