“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21
We are word-hungry people.
Our souls are hungry for a steady diet of meaning-filled words. The Maker designed it that way. And words don’t even have to come verbally because the deaf can get their souls fed. And they don’t even have to come three times a day because a ration can last for weeks. But when it does come, it has to be timely, truthful, and personal. That’s the recipe of what makes a word well balanced and a blessing.
Timely means the word is delivered in its relevant season. Some words come too early before it’s fully cooked. Raw food can poison. Other words are given way past their date of expiration. Expired food can spoil.
Truthful means the word is rooted in reality neither dressed up nor dressed down. Some words are an illusion giving the appearance of truth – like imitation crab. Or tofurkey. But a half truth is still a lie. (Tofurkey is a lie.) Other words are filled with sweeteners. They aim to manipulate emotions rather than truly bless.
Personal means the word is fully customized to the recipient as intended. Some words are mass produced meant for public consumption like in a cafeteria. (Think Hallmark.) And while a word doesn’t have to be specific in order for it to be helpful, you wouldn’t celebrate your wedding anniversary in a cafeteria. Your special someone is more blessed by personal messages than hallmark cliches.
For the soul to truly feast on a word, it has to be timely, truthful, and personal. And when you feed someone’s soul this way, life happens.
When you communicate truths of the universe to someone, you remove a blockage in the artery of their destiny. They can live life. They’re no longer hindered by false ideas. They can be honest with themselves and about their situation.
And there’s a kindness in giving someone a word blessing – a kindness that leads to a new way of thinking, a changed way of thinking – a repentance. Blessing leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
If you want to change someone’s direction in life, give them a word blessing.
When you bless someone according to Scripture, you bring alignment to their soul. The reason why the Proverb writer says death and life are in the power of the tongue is because words propel people in the direction of their destiny. When you curse, your words align people with death. When you bless, your words partner with God to align people with their purpose. You give life. God can use you to speak identity and destiny over people.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert to turn stone into bread he responded by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) This was a temptation of words. Satan feeds us with lies, but God feeds us with truth. Like Satan we can choose to speak lies and illusion – like rocks into bread or like tofurkey. Or we can learn to speak like God whose very Word is the Bread of Life. (Like a fully dressed Butterball turkey.)
Words that come from God are the essence of life. When we communicate these words we create a culture of life.
Many people with influence don’t realize the life giving potential of their words. So they store their words in a pantry never to be used, starving those under their care. When you starve people whom you have influence over, you create a culture of famine.
A culture of scarcity.
A culture of death.
But when you feed people under your care with blessing and not just flattery – the difference in health is as drastic as Daniel and his three friends versus the youth who ate Nebuchadnezzar’s food. “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.” (Daniel 1:14) In the way healthy food gave favour towards Daniel and his friends in the eyes of the king, blessing makes our soul healthy and favours us towards our destiny in Christ.
If you’re a parent, learn how to nourish your children through blessing. You’re entrusted by God to bless and not to curse, to give life and not to take life. If you withhold blessing, you are starving your child’s soul. You are potentially blocking their destiny.
If you’re a leader, build a culture of honesty and affirmation. You set the tone for how your followers will speak to one another. Will there be openness and encouragement or will there be gossip and gouging? Will it be a culture of life or a culture of death?
Let me say it again, if you want to change someone’s direction in life, give them a word blessing.
So here are four word blessings you can start now.
WORD BLESSING #1 \\ START PROPHESYING
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)
My definition of a prophetic word is a God-inspired thought communicated to individuals or the church to edify and to build according to God’s purpose. The motivation behind a prophetic word is to bring alignment between people and God’s purpose in the world. Prophetic words are not as mystical as they are practical. It isn’t about telling the future as much as it is steering towards the future.
Do you know someone who is off-track, someone who is aimlessly wandering, someone who is listening to another voice other than God? They could use a prophetic word from you.
(For more about prophetic words and how to hear God on behalf of others, listen to one of my sermons about the subject.)
WORD BLESSING #2 \\ START EXHORTING
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
Exhortation is a translation of the Greek word parakaleó which is also at times translated to comfort, encourage, or console. Even its word construction gives us a picture of what it means to exhort. Para means to come close or along side and kaleó means to call. Exhortation is some variation of being close enough to someone to speak encouragement to them. The Holy Spirit is called the Paraklétos.
When you exhort someone, you comfort and encourage from up close. Your words become the difference between them quitting and them persevering. You cheer them from the sidelines reminding them of God’s better future. You exhort them to know that their past is not a hindrance rather it was preparation. They get to the finish line because of your exhortation.
Do you know someone who is giving up? Do you know someone who’s tired, feeling alone, ready to quit? They need your exhortation to get to the next level.
WORD BLESSING #3 \\ START REBUKING
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:20)
Rebuke gets a bad wrap as being overly harsh. But it’s the only way to get a child out of traffic. Paul’s instruction here reminds us that at times our tone in which we speak to people must be direct and drastic. If you don’t believe in sin and the effects of sin, no biggie. You can just recommend or give your opinion when someone is destroying their life. But if sin and spiritual death is real and someone is fast-tracking in that direction, rebuke is the kindest way to help them towards repentance.
While biblical rebuke may not always be gentle, it is always kind.
This doesn’t mean you have to be negative or critical or loud. Rebuke is drastic and desperate speech to get someone’s attention in order to wake them up. Because one person off track is enough to get the whole group off track. Paul remarks here that in rebuking someone who is persistent in their sin, we can sanctify an entire community. Individual sin is never individual.
Who is someone under your care and influence that’s throwing away God’s grace? Who is it that without your rebuke will hurt and destroy the lives of others? They need your kindness in the form of rebuke.
WORD BLESSING #4 \\ START EVANGELIZING
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13)
In order for anyone to walk in their identity and destiny as image bearers of God, as fully alive human beings, and imitators of Jesus – we need to hear the Gospel with regularity and clarity. The Gospel not only saves you, but it keeps you. The Gospel not only justifies, but it sanctifies. When you teach, counsel, or encourage someone in anyway that is inconsistent with the Gospel – you’re either giving them therapeutic advice to make peace with their sins or moralistic demands that they will never meet on their own.
But when you share with someone the message that in Christ God has pardoned our sin completely, adopted us as His children, and invited us to be a change agents in the world – when that message permeates the daily activity of our soul – there is no greater sense of freedom and no greater sense of purpose.
Ultimately, only the Gospel can set a person on the right track towards their destiny in Christ.
Who do you know is living a destiny rooted in anything else other than Christ? Who is enslaved to philosophy, religion, or apathy where only the Gospel of Jesus can free them? They need to hear the Good News from you.
If you haven’t noticed, each one of these word blessings is a spiritual gift defined in the Bible. A spiritual gift is an action whose source and origin is in the Holy Spirit. The reason why word blessings propel people in their destiny is because God is the author of their destiny and so only God can steer them in that direction. When we choose to bless people according to God’s Word, we partner with him in nourishing souls and bringing about the best in humanity in this world.
Words can launch a nuclear crisis or they can feed a nation in famine. There’s no other way to establish justice, human flourishing, and prosperity in the world other than speaking God’s words of life – in all of its forms. That’s all Jesus did while he walked the earth. That’s why He said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)
That’s our pattern for speech.
The world is starving.
So now feed it.