There is an old rhyme which says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.”
From one standpoint, this is true—if we don’t allow ourselves to take offence at what others may say to or about us. However, words are powerful, and they can dramatically affect our lives. The Word of God gives abundant instruction concerning the words we use and the kind of fruit they bear. Note this admonition:
“An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28).
The apostle James states, “For we all stumble in many things, If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a [mature] man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). James continues, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (verse 6); and, “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (verse 8). He also warns us:
“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12).
How do we apply this instruction from God? How can we really begin to do what we are taught regarding the words we speak? The answer is that we must think before we speak. Even more foundational is the fact that we must learn to think right thoughts and here is what Paul said to those in Philippi:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
In the days ahead, test yourself and practice thinking this way. Don’t imagine raging thoughts of hatred filled with anger and revenge—don’t even think this way! Rather, think godly thoughts so that your words will reflect the light of Christ in everything you say!