Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones August 17, 2014

Do you know that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”? I think sometimes it is easy to forget that the opposite is actually true. In Matthew 10:28 we are exhorted to not fear that which can only kill our bodies, instead, fear that which can kill both body and soul. Bodies are just bodies. Like Jesus, we will be raised again. We bruise, we break and eventually our bodies will die — but remember your soul doesn’t die along with your body. They are connected, but one is far more precious than the other.

So what should we fear? What can harm our souls? In Matthew 15:11, Jesus states that what goes into a man’s mouth isn’t what defiles him, but that which comes out. This truth is also found in James 3:6,

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”

You can also hear this echoed in Proverbs,“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (13:3),  “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (18:7), “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (18:21).

Words bring life and death, my friends. Only sometimes to physical bodies, but words always effect our souls. So how should we protect ourselves? What can keep our souls safe?

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?  Keep your tongue from evil

    and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:12-14


Did you catch that? If you want to live, if you want many days, if you want to see goodness — watch your tongue and keep your lips under control. Oh how careful I am to buckle my seatbelt, to look both ways before crossing the street! How much time have I spent in pursuit of keeping my body well, vitamins, food, exercise. Only to blurt out unkindness to my children. How often have my complaints torn down my husband’s spirit? All those times my thoughtless comments wounded dear friends.

Think about your words (not remember someone elses’) — what have you said? What did you type? Did you reflect a holy pursuit of peace? Did your words encourage fleeing from evil? Were you doing good? Did you bring life or did you harm to their souls?

The words we speak, the words we type, they have power. Words are a weapon. Be careful. Know how to use them. Intentionally devote time to practice.  Seek wisdom on when and how to speak. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.   Words heard (and read) cannot be undone. Once they have been heard and seen, you cannot retract them. The delete button is nice, but it doesn’t erase what was written in the heart and mind of those who already read it.  Forgiveness is at hand, but only the humble may obtain it. Sticks and stones only break bones, but words have the power to destroy souls. 

Lord, keep us from cutting down the righteous and harming the innocent.

Lord, teach us, instead, to fight for them. Teach us to protect them.

Help us bring life to others and glory to You.


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  • Jason Scheibe

    It seems like most of your verses vaguely and generally speak to the effects words have on the utterer, not the victim. Also it seems like harsh words are a part of life, and the best way to prepare for that is training your kids to have strong shoulders and teach them to control their tongues like your verses said. But the initial quote should be true if parents do their jobs.

    • Hi, Jason!

      Yes, the emphasis is on what we can do to keep our own tongues out of trouble, but I didn’t really address being on the receiving end. I definitely think it is important to be tough (this is something we try to teach our kids and sometimes need to remind ourselves). Not everything everyone says is worth listening to. However, sometimes we need to let words hurt us, we need our souls to be broken (Psalm 51:17) and sometimes God uses the words of others to achieve that goal. The trick is to learn who to heed and whose words aren’t worth regarding.

      Ben says that the very fact that parents need to train their children to be tough is evidence of the danger of words (I’m paraphrasing). He said it is like having a bullet proof vest because bullets are dangerous (his words). 🙂

      Does that make sense?

      • Jason Scheibe

        Yeah, the quote was kinda speaking to the receiving end, maybe that’s why it makes sense to me, or I look at it from the opposite side. While I agree that words can be powerful, I don’t think that will ever change. We can influence our own children, but that is easy, most half decent christian kids aren’t verbally abusive to others. The bullet proof vest seems most important to develop because it is much harder to build confidence and security in a child than it is to teach them not to be mean.

        • I agree. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Jason. Say hi to your family for us!