“Sticks and stones … but words will never hurt me,” we used to say, but we know that it is not true. In fact, many are emotionally crippled from words spoken many years ago. Broken bones have healed and scarred, but the heart is still wounded and bleeding from angry words or cruel jesting spoken yesteryears. And time does not heal all wounds.
The Bible tells us,
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. ~ Proverbs 18:21
How many have been so deeply wounded, and parts of them killed, because of words? We casually speak hurtful words, dismissing the seriousness of any wounds or consequences. We justify our anger, as we delight in another’s hurt feelings. “The idiots deserve it,” we say. We jest and make fun because it makes us, somehow, feel superior. We claim, “It was only a joke, they need to get over it!” Even though another was verbally and emotionally abused and molested; they were humiliated and shamed, pieces of them robbed and broken. Death is in the power of the tongue. So is it any wonder Jesus tells us,
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. ~ Matthew 5:21-22
Elsewhere, Jesus says,
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ~ Matthew 15:18-19
Obviously, there is nothing intrinsically evil about the tongue. Like a rock, knife, machete, or nail gun, the tongue is but a tool. If used properly, it has the potential of such beneficial good. However, if misused, it can do unbelievable damage. In fact, Jesus equates abusive speech with murder, and tells us the words we speak reveal what is already filling the heart (murder, adultery, theft, etc.).
James writes of the destructive wickedness of the tongue in his short epistle:
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:5-6
Consider all the malicious, abusive, and slanderous talk permeating and being absorbed throughout our society and world on social media, in our schools, in political arenas, etc. This is not simply venting. Much of it truly is murderous and violent, creating such division and flames set ablaze by hell.
May God help each of us to learn to control our tongues, and to start using them for healing and mending. Have we not seen and heard enough destructive talk?