Evangelist, Chouteau Hills Church of Christ
When children get their feelings hurt by unkind words, they are often told, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That little saying sounds good, but unfortunately, it is just not true. Words can be extremely painful and can cause tremendous damage. We should accept the truth that words can be extremely powerful.
A person with wicked intentions can cause untold damage with words. But sometimes, even those who desire to live good, clean, wholesome lives can inflict great pain by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” Since none of us is perfect, we must face the fact that we all sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
The wise man, Solomon, wrote in Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” Those who desire to live right will give careful consideration to the words they use. On the other hand, wicked people will just let evil words flow from their mouths, not caring who gets hurt by them. In fact, some wicked people delight in causing harm through their speech. They know that rumors don’t even have to be true to cause trouble.
God gives us numerous warnings about the wrong use of words. For example, Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.” James advises us to be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God gave us two ears and one tongue for a purpose! Hasty speaking leads quickly to trouble. Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The more a person talks, the greater his chances are for getting into trouble. Ecclesiastes 10:14 says, “A fool also multiplies words.”
It is important to recognize how dangerous a tongue can be. With dry, windy weather, we are well aware of how dangerous fire can be and how important it is to prevent fires from starting. James 3:6-8 says, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
Isn’t it strange that man can tame lions, tigers, elephants, snakes, and numerous other ferocious animals, yet he cannot tame his own tongue? Why is that true? Perhaps he is not putting the same amount of time and effort into it. Careful thinking before speaking is an important step in controlling the tongue.
In other words, if we take care of our thoughts, that will take care of our words. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-35, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
Jesus tells us that we will be accountable for every word we speak. Our words can either justify or condemn us (Matthew 12:36-37). Never underestimate the power of words. Think carefully before you speak. The words you speak to others can have a long-lasting impact upon them. But even more importantly, they can have eternal consequences for you.