“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Remember those words from the playground? Wouldn’t it be great if that saying were true? Just imagine, words bouncing off you like bullets off of Superman. Sadly, thats not the case.
Words are a weapon that can damage us beyond belief. In fact Scripture says our words can be as sharp as swords, and as deadly as arrows (Psalm 64:3). The wrong word, spoken at the wrong time can cause a lifetime of hurt. I have witnessed firsthand the power of words. I’ve seen them ruin careers, split up families, cause division in churches and separate life long friends. And I am not alone, we have all seen the same. As Christians there are five powerful facts that we must realize and take to heart about words.
First we have to realize that careless words can bring hurt and destruction into the lives of all involved. In Proverbs 26:20-22 it compares gossip to kindling for a fire and food that brings nourishment. Take a moment and read that passage and think about those words. It’s saying words can quickly start a fire and that those words can grow in our lives. But even beyond this life we are accountable for the words we speak. Matthew 12:36 tells us that we will all give account for “every careless word they have spoken.” on the day of judgment. It’s not just our deeds, but our words that will echo in eternity.
Gossip and hurtful words pose another danger to a Christian. The second thing we must know is that words used inappropriately will harm our daily walk with God. To put it bluntly: how can we expect growth everyday in our relationship with God, who is love, when we speak unloving words about His creation. Check out Psalm 15:1-3. David is telling us what a person who walks and dwells with God is like. The NASB says “nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend.”. Let’s not forget the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus taught us that we should show mercy, but even more than that He taught us that everyone is our neighbor, regardless of race, nationality, age, gender or anything else.
Thirdly, we must choose not to use hurtful words. That’s right folks, personal responsibility! The Holy Spirit is our guide and companion, gently nudging us, but He does not control our actions and speech. Ultimately it’s on us. In 1 Peter 3:10, Peter tells us “whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” Got that? God will keep watch over your heart, you have to keep your tongue behind your teeth.
This is where it starts on a more positive note. The fourth item on the list has something in common with the third. They are not just things we should know, but actively do on a daily basis. And the fourth thing is that we must replace our careless, damaging words with positive and productive words. Since Jesus bought us back from death, shouldn’t our words speak life? Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” All of us have uttered words we wish that we could snatch back out of the air. But there’s no magic net to catch them back. Our words must be uplifting and encouraging. Too many time we mask our cruel words under the guise of “correction”. Don’t believe me? Read Ephesians 4:29. Thats in the Bible by the way, and none of us can deny the truth it holds. Take a minute before you move on. Ask yourself this question, is my speech helpful or harmful?
The fifth and final fact is flat out awesome. God is our refuge against hurtful words. Psalm 31:20 says “in the shelter of Your presence You hide them from the intrigues of men, in Your dwelling You keep them safe from accusing tongues.” Our identity is found in Christ and not in the words and opinions of men. When we walk upright and holy lives, and guard our tongues against slander and gossip, God is our shelter and shield against the words of men. Did you see that personal responsibility thing again? God is our refuge, but He expects is to live a holy life.
To sum it up, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.