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Sacred Cow Tipping -- What God is Actually Saying in Proverbs 18:21

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Yet taken captive they are. Lakewood Church rakes in over $500,000 per weekend in giving and Osteen's viewership is probably measured in the millions. It is perfectly understandable too. Who wouldn't want to hear that they are little gods? That they can speak things, including money, into existence? That they can be as God? That they can ascend to the throne of the Most High? But the bottom line here is that Proverbs 18:21 teaches no such thing. I included the previous two verses for context. Proverbs are often grouped by similar subject matters. Verse 19 is very clear. It is dealing with offense. An offended brother is more unyielding than a strong city. During this heated political season it seems everyone is offended, so I am sure we can all relate. I have seen brother and sister in Christ turn on each other over perceived offenses within supporting one candidate over the other. It is intrinsic in human nature to take offense it seems which is why the Bible is so explicit about these matters:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. - Romans 12: 18 (ESV)

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 that hear. - Ephesians 4: 29 (ESV)

There are plenty of other corroborating Scriptures beloved. We are not to be the source of offense towards people. Verse 20 is reinforcing that what we hold in our heart (belly) is what we will be satisfied with. We reap what we sow. Out of the abundance of the heart does the mouth speak. These two verses leading into the key verse are dealing with how we speak to other people. I say this because what word faith heretics do is flip this on its ear to pretend that these verses are about how we speak about ourselves. So we come to one of the most abused Bible verses:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18: 21 (ESV)

Let's break this into the two parts it has. Not surprisingly, those who seek to twist God's Word will often ignore the second half of the verse and just say that life and death are in the power of the tongue. This is in relation to other people though, not how we "self-speak." Our words can cause offense to a brother who then becomes unyielding towards us. Our words can edify however and build people up with wholesome conversation as opposed to corrupting talk. Let us see what Gill's Exposition of the Bible says about this verse:

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, of witnesses, according to the testimony they bear; of judges, according to the sentence they pass; of teachers, according to the doctrine they preach; of all men, who, by their well or ill speaking, bring death or life to themselves and others; yea, judgment at the last day will proceed according to man's words, "by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned", the tongue is the instrument either of a great deal of good, or of a great deal of evil. -- Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

If we are a witness of Christ, which we all are, the power of our tongue carries life or death for the hearers. If we are a judge, our sentence does. If we are a teacher, our doctrine does. Remember beloved the Bible says we will all be held to account for every careless word. False judging does matter. False witnessing does matter. False teaching does matter. Our tongue is indeed the source of great good or great evil and thus life or death but this is always in relation to other people -- not ourselves. There is nothing that even vaguely hints at the power of creation in our words.

What then about the second half of the key verse? Those who love the tongue will eat of its fruit. Matthew Poole's Commentary succinctly summarizes this by saying we shall receive good or evil according to the quality of our speech. This is supported throughout Scripture and there is a universal precept of sowing and reaping. If we are constantly tearing people down then we can expect the same in our lives. Bitterness and anger are like acid in our stomachs eating away at us day by day. But please note, it is not the speech itself that results in what the world might refer to as karma. It is the principle God has set up. Word faith removes God and His principles from these equations. Instead of God having His way, we create our own. The power goes from God and His precepts to our mouths and the power of our own words. As noted before it is simply blasphemous. So if we find ourselves in love with the sound of our own voice, we better make sure our speech is seasoned with salt and preserves rather than destroys people.

Just a closing word on discernment in relation to this topic. It is often then confused that since we ought to only have edifying words that we ought never to criticize false teaching and that wholly misses the point. Nothing is above the Word of God. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the word of God because only the Gospel has the power of God unto the salvation of men. In fact, it is edifying to let someone know that they are under false teaching because only then can they come into the light. It is destructive to turn a blind eye to false teaching under the ruse of unity or even "speaking life." The false Gospel is by definition death. The road to destruction is broad because so many people are following false teachers who preach false gospels that promote false christs. Only the true Gospel brings life eternal beloved. This is why Titus instructs those with preaching and teaching callings to not only preach the correct Gospel but to rebuke those who do not. It is not in contradiction to Proverbs 18:21 but rather it affirms it. Do not believe snake oil salesmen peddling the trinkets of this world to you by convincing you that you are in any way God; little or otherwise. Do not aspire to rise to the throne of the Most High. We must diminish so that He may increase. Speak that into existence in your lives.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- August 25, 2016

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