By Pastor Phil
Every generation has to deal with school yard bullies. We had our share of them at my elementary school in Muskogee. I can still remember this one boy who seemed to have a knack for name-calling and ridicule and just about everyone in the class seemed to be his target. When we complained the teachers would quote the old adage to us, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Boy, were they wrong!
The truth is, words can hurt. A lot. Proverbs 12 has quite a bit to say about the power of words. Words can rescue us (verse 6) or words can trap and ensnare us (verse 13). Most of us have been guilty of saying something unkind about someone else and then word gets back to that person. We’re sorry for what we said, sorry our words have wounded someone, but once said, the damage is done and we are stuck. “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk but a righteous man escapes trouble.” The righteous escape trouble because they know not to speak evil of others to begin with. They know not to speak of sinful things. Better yet, the righteous know when to keep their mouth shut!
Verse 18 speaks of the power and danger of “reckless words.” These are words spoken carelessly, words spoken in anger. We get mad and say things we never would have said, never should have said. “I hate you! I wish you’d never been born!” We exaggerate. “You always …! You never….!” We intentionally try to harm someone. “Oh yeah? Well let me tell you what she said about you.” Reckless words pierce like a sword. They don’t kill us, instead they leave us bleeding, wounded, suffering. Reckless words are the words the victim replays over and over in her head. She thinks about those words and each time she suffers from the wound.
Have you thought about the pain your words inflict on others when you speak recklessly? When you speak out of anger and frustration, without thinking, without regard for others, you are piercing them with a sword. You are inflicting lasting pain.
Parents inflict lasting pain with reckless words. “You’re stupid. You’ll never amount to anything.” Spouses inflict pain with reckless words. “I’m sorry I ever married you.” We are all guilty and we all need to guard our words. Think before you speak. “What am I saying? What will be the immediate effect of my words and what will be the lasting effect of my words?”
Reckless words pierce like a sword and everywhere we encounter victims. Wounded people are all around us but there is good news. “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” We can be healers! We can speak words of blessing and encouragement that will work like a medicine. Our words, spoken with love, spoken with kindness and in wisdom actually have curative power. We can heal wounded and broken hearts with words of grace. Verse 25 tells us with words of kindness we can cheer up those who are discouraged and burdened down.
We have a choice to make. With our words we can wound or we can heal. With our words we can destroy or we can build up. With our words we can bless or we can curse, we can discourage or we can bring cheer. “From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things.” Do you want your life to be filled with good things? Be wise with your words. Let your words bring healing and cheer to others.
“Lord, help me to be gracious and kind with my words. I want to build up and bless, not tear down and wound. Help me to avoid reckless words, to guard my mouth, to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Let my words be truthful, bringing healing and encouragement to all I meet today. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.”