Can you speak something into existence?

Question:

I heard someone use the figure of speech that negative thinking "speaks it into existence." In other words, when you verbalize negativity that person's reality becomes negative. The Bible tells us God spoke the worlds into existence. Man has the ability to speak something. For example, at some point man said I'm going to build the Empire State building, and over the course of time, with concerted effort, the Empire State building was built. Thus, man verbalized something and it came to be (obviously at a far less extent than God). To my knowledge, man is the only creature that has that ability. Could that be a way we are created in the image of God as well?


Answer:

There is an intermixing of ideas that could lead to a lot of confusion.

A person's attitude affects how he perceives the world around him. The world doesn't actually change. The only the thing that changes is what the person focuses on. "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). How a person feels inside typically gets reflected in his facial expressions and body language. "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken" (Proverbs 15:13). It is not the words that make this happen, but instead the words spoken reflect what the person is feeling inside.

It is because of this that often we get involved in self-fulfilling prophecies; that is, we tend to make our fears come to past. If I'm absolutely convinced that I can't past a test, then I most likely won't because I won't put the necessary effort in to prepare for the test. Again, it isn't because I spoke the negativity into existence; I was already negative and the words just let others know about my mood. Another example would be someone who is convinced that another person doesn't like them. The person will focus on every negative act or word as confirmation of what he is certain must be true. He will then react negatively to the other person and even if there was no animosity before, conflict and strife will build up. Again, it is the person's attitude, not what he said, that causes the problem.

But what we say can impact other people, either for good or ill. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Proverbs 18:21). It isn't that words spoke something into existence, but rather our comments can encourage people or hurt them deeply. Even our facial expressions can impact other people. "Bright eyes gladden the heart; good news puts fat on the bones" (Proverbs 15:30).

There are plenty of people who announced plans that never happened. As an example, the rich man who said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry"" (Luke 12:18-19). He ended up dying instead. This is because God allows us to make our own plans, but just because we plan something, the ultimate decision belongs to God. "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:1). Thus, in your example, the Empire State Building did not get built because someone stated it. That merely announce the person's plans. It was the hard work that built the building and the project only succeeded because God as agreeable to it. This is why James warns, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that"" (James 4:13-15).

In contrast, God spoke the universe into existence. He stated it and it became a reality. It wasn't an announcement of intentions and then a lot of work happened. Though when God does state His intentions, we know that these too will come to past. "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11).

Unlike God, man cannot do this. We are unable to speak anything into existence. We cannot even guarantee that what we intend to do will happen.