“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.”
This idiom must have originally been spoken by someone attempting to overcome hurtful, devastating words that cut to the core. We have all experienced it! Hurtful words that brought us to our knees and that continue to negatively impact the way we view ourselves. Unlike edifying comments that can be briefly appreciated and then quickly forgotten, hurtful words remain, fester, and crush our spirit. In our feeble attempt to ward off the pain, we sputter, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but….” as we melt into a puddle.
James referred to the tongue as a fire. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6) He further states that we cannot control the tongue. Just as a bit is used to control a horse to keep it from harming the one who is riding it and a rudder is used to control a huge ship to keep it from floundering in a storm, the tongue must be controlled to keep us from harming those around us. Knowing we can’t control the tongue and also knowing the great harm that it can cause, where do we turn to find a bit (like the horse) or a rudder (like the ship). Matthew expresses the need well: Matt. 12:36-37, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” We must choose our words very carefully, knowing that we will have to give an answer for them in judgment. We will be judged by the way we judge.in the words we speak.
The answer lies in submission – submitting our tongues to God, to edify and not tear down. James reminds us that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:17-18) By laying our tongues on the altar of God, we not only edify those around us, we receive a reward: “a harvest of righteousness!”
Lord, please remove the poison in my tongue that lies in wait to bite one who is vulnerable. Help me to speak words of power and life into that person. Thank you for the righteousness that is gifted to me for doing so!