“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a little chant we were taught to say as kids when someone said something mean to us. However, it was only half true. Words can hurt us and we are capable of saying some of the meanest things when we are upset or even impatient with someone.
Some of the meanest words I’ve seen recently has been from those commenting on presidential candidates, including from presidential candidates themselves. Somehow in our society we’ve come to point where we think insults, off-color humor, and snarkiness are the only means of persuasion. King Solomon knew better:
“By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” (Proverbs 25:15)
Most people will likely misunderstand that verse. Forbearance does not mean tolerating evil; we are to shine the light of the Gospel wherever evil reigns. However, we are to do so without vitriol.
Solomon no doubt had heard the exploits of his father King David. David had many opportunities to kill King Saul, who was seeking to destroy David. Even after Samuel had anointed David as king, David instructed his men to not strike Saul:
“The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But please, take now the spear and the jug of water that are by his head, and let us go.” (1 Kings 26:11)
David knew that we can never be guiltless when it comes to take matters into our own hands. Saul eventually died on the battlefield just as David had prophesied.
I am learning that my words, even if tempered cannot always change a man’s mind. I might be able to talk someone into something, but someone can come behind me and talk them out of it. It is only when our hearts are changed that our minds follow through.
I am learning that my best argument to someone whose mind does not think biblically is always received as an “uh-uh,” even if I eloquently make my case. That is because their mind is unable to process our argument.
It takes the light of Scripture to clear up stinking thinking, not my powers of persuasion. Worse yet, when I attack through my words it is like a door slamming in the mind of those on the receiving end. And then we are shocked when the person counterattacks:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
I clearly remember my mother one time telling me that I was a hard man because of how I would use my knowledge as a sledgehammer. I actually took that as a badge of honor until the Lord showed me that I was actually being a scar maker. What I mean by this is that my words were wounding people, usually those that I supposedly loved. But even if it was towards my enemies and they had it coming, Scripture clearly showed me that I was not acting Christlike. I was simply being a fool:
“The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:2)
I sometimes think I have the spiritual gift of pouring forth foolishness or better known as criticism. Again, please do not think I’m advocating tolerating evil. We can stand in the gap for Christ without using the Gospel as a sledgehammer. Solomon wrote this about the virtuous wife:
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26)
You’ve heard the old adage, “Kill them with kindness.” That is what Solomon meant by a gentle tongue breaking bones. We are to be dispensers of grace, not the kind that is void of God’s Word resulting in nothing more than verbal sugar water. Paul explains it best:
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
I am going to have to give an account for every word that I speak or write. I shudder remembering some of the things I have said or written. I thank God that I have a Mediator who I can turn to and seek forgiveness for my harsh words.
I should never delight in having to rebuke someone.
If I should have to break bones with my words, then let it be done a gentle tongue.
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Copyright © 2016 David Jeffers