writing-a-matter-of-life-or-death

Writing: A Matter of Life or Death

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

As writers, we hold a sobering amount of power. God's Word tells us that words can give life or destroy it. What does that mean for us as Christian writers?

I never feel more powerful than when I sit down to write.” A fellow freelance writer said this recently, and I’ve thought about it a lot ever since. There’s a reason she feels that way—a biblical reason. In fact, according to the Bible, the words we write are a matter of life or death.  

First, let’s talk about God’s Word. Ephesians 6:17 says that God’s Word is a sword—the sword of the Spirit. A sword is a weapon. And God’s Word is the only offensive weapon God has given us to fight the enemy of our souls.

But it’s an incredibly powerful weapon.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).”

God’s Word is powerful. But how do our words compare?

The Power of Words

The Bible uses pretty powerful language to talk about the power of our words.

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

“The tongue” refers to our speech—what we say. As writers, we speak with pen and paper (or keyboards and computer screens). So it’s fair to say that, when the Bible mentions our tongue or our speech or our words, it includes what we write. We could say that, as writers,

Death and life are in the power of our pens (or keyboards).

James explains it this way:

… if we could control our tongues [our words], we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue [the pen or the keyboard] is a small thing that makes grand speeches (James 3:2-5, NLT).”

James is telling us not to underestimate the power of our words because there’s a cause and effect that happens when we speak (or write). God’s Word gives us some examples:

…a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire…It can set your whole life on fire…(James 3:5-6, NLT)” 

…the words of the wise bring healing (Proverbs 12:18b, NLT).”

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24, NASB).”

Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4, NLT).”

The Call to Write

Oh, my writing friends! Consider the gravity of this! The words we write have the power to heal or to hurt, to give life or to destroy. The call to write for God’s glory bears with it a tremendous weight of responsibility. We must not take it lightly. 

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37, ESV).”

For writers who write words that teach—and for most writers who desire to glorify God in their writing, there is an element of teaching—there’s a higher standard. This serious warning precedes James’ passage about the power of the tongue:

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1, NIV).”

Jesus Himself addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount:

So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19, NLT).”

God’s not glorified by hypocrisy. God-glorifying writers live out what we write. This means a call to write for God’s glory is not just a commission to put words on a page—It’s a mandate to live a life that glorifies God.

Wisdom With Words

Does this terrify you? I think a certain amount of fear is a healthy thing here. Clearly, it’s wise to be careful with our words. 

In a multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19, NKJV).”

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness (Proverbs 15:2, NLT).”

But God doesn’t mean to paralyze you with fear, dear writer. If He has called you to write for His glory, He will also equip you to do it, and to do it well.

Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen (1 Peter 4:11, NLT).”

Write to Give Life & Glorify God

How can we ensure that what we write is God-glorifying? How do we wield our powerful writing tools well? 

One way is to ask questions about your writing to assess the nature of your words. Rise Up Writers has a comprehensive Content Assessment Form that asks five key questions:

  1. Is it helpful?
  2. Is it honoring?
  3. Is it honest?
  4. Is it humble?
  5. Is it hopeful?

Christa Threlfell asks these three questions before pressing “publish”:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Does it exalt Christ as the true Hero?
  3. Is it gracious?

The blog guidelines for my church put it this way:

Does it encourage? 

Do my words encourage faith in Jesus Christ and His Word? Does it minister grace to those who read them?  

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT).” 

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, ESV).”

So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up (Romans 14:19, NLT).”

Does it equip? 

Do my words “stir up” the reader “to love and good works”? Does it build up the Body of Christ for the ministry of the Gospel?  

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25, NLT).”

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT).”

Does it exalt? 

Do my words exalt the truth about who God is and what He’s done? Who is presented as the hero of the story?  

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17, ESV).”

Wield Your Words Well

Self-assessment tools like these are like a spiritual edit of our written words. When we actually take the time to go through them for everything we write and share with others, we show diligence and humility in desiring to glorify God with our words. 

But if we are to write words that are life-giving and God-glorifying, we must go deeper. 

What we write (and speak) ultimately comes from what’s in our hearts (Matthew 12:34). Fill your heart up with the truth of God’s Word, live according to His Word, and the words that flow through your fingers will automatically glorify Him.

And when you sit down to write, remember that you hold in your hand (or tap under your fingers) something that holds tremendous power. What will you use it for?

A Prayer for Christian Writers

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14, NLT).”

One Response

  1. Thank you so much, Jana. I wish I could read such posts for writers and bloggers in my own language. This is so nice. Luckily I can translate it tot Dutch 🙂

    God bless you!

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