For so many of us, Things Fall Apart is one of the few fiction books that we have read. This is likely because it was part of the high school reading list – it had to be read! I was also introduced to the writings of Chinua Achebe this way.

One thing that, 17 years after reading it, I recall was the line: A snake is never called by its name at night, because it would hear. It was called a string. This stood out for me because it was so innately African. The assumption that nature hears and beckons. That the gods, or God, is listening to what will come out of your mouth in readiness to act.

So it is no wonder that we take the “power of the tongue” so seriously. I recall having a discussion with someone and mentioning to them that I was “poor” at the time. They quickly reprimanded me for saying something so life threatening. I was informed that one should not call poverty into their life. You must say something like “I don’t have money right now.” I guess that is more palatable to the hearers. You will also see similar things on Facebook. An unknown “prophet” (of doom) says, “this is your year of prosperity and no bad thing will happen” and a plethora of amens flood the comments.

If indeed the power of the tongue and the beckoning of good was enough for us to prosper then Africa would have immense wealth. Now there is no issue with wishing good. No issue with wanting to speak well and hope for a great year, a great month, and a great season. But critical is the follow up of this with action. Work hard to change the narrative.

This is also one way we shall curb corruption. This may sound rather crazy but my thought around the power of the tongue principle is that we speak a Range Rover into our lives but have no means of attaining it. Or better still a prophet speaks a job into your life and you claim it. A couple weeks later, a government official tells you to pay him X amount of Kwacha for the job you have been praying for. You link the prophecy and the action together and voila – an answered prayer! A narrative of the power of the tongue without the work it takes to achieve what we aim for is bound to lead you to take short cuts.

If you jump out of a 20 story building in a Christian nation, and if you jump out of a building in Iraq, you will most certainly meet your end. This is because the law of gravity does not discriminate. Neither does the effect of hard work. This is the result of God’s common grace. Produce something of value and we will buy, serve us well and we will return. If you use the power of the tongue to speak customers into your business whilst providing a poor quality product, unlike the string in Things Fall Apart, we will not come!

The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is truest here. Africa needs to worry less about speaking things into existence and more about working hard, putting our hand to the plough.