Sticks and Stones

sticks-and-stones

Proverbs 18:20-21 (NLT) Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” is one of the greatest lies ever told yet recounted time and time again to overcome the hurtful, thoughtless or careless words of others. The original context is from an English children’s rhyme in 1872 which is “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.”  Rubbish. Hogwash. Words do cause great harm when not considered fully and carefully before delivery. Many people will take the words of others to the heart. Many word walls surround fragile hearts enshrouding them in darkness and never allowing the Light of God’s Love to reach inside.

As a self-professed and often labeled talker, I am at great risk when it comes to conversation. It has taken a whole lot of Jesus to gain even the slightest control over my wayward tongue and rambling thoughts that come tumbling out of my mouth. There are some days when I stop talking altogether in fear of allowing those harmful words to come rolling out undeterred. Blessing and cursing cannot come from the same mouth. We must examine our heart and consider each word in every conversation comparing them to Christ to be sure that they nourish souls and bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life. As believers, let’s take a moment today to evaluate the contents of conversation.

I Samuel 17:40-47 (NLT) He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!  And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

Bear with me. I know this is not the common text concerning wise words and godly conversation but it is relevant. David didn’t come to the battlefield looking for a fight that day. He was directed to bring his brothers lunch and return with a report of their well-being. When the shepherd boy arrived on the scene, he was an unsuspecting hero who was about to be discovered. He went to battle with five smooth stones selected from a nearby stream and his staff. Goliath approached ready to fight but David came ready to win. His faith spoke from a confident heart, “But I come in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you…” With one well-directed stone, the giant in all his bravado died that day. The whole world did see the Hand of God work on behalf of his people. It is one of the most renowned stories of the Bible taught to even the smallest of children.

There are many teachings on the stones that David chose that day. I believe there is significance in his choice as well for many reasons. David went to battle with stones, a slingshot and a staff. What if the stones represented our words, testimony and offering to others? The slingshot our mouth or tongue. The staff represents direction. Our words should always be washed in God’s Word and sent in His Direction according to His Instruction. David wrote in Psalm 23 that God’s Rod (Discipline) and Staff (Direction) were a comfort to him. The smooth stones of the stream were once sharp-edged rocks. Time and testing had tempered them as the water rushed over them and around them season after season preparing them for the day of the giant. The stones are evidence of precise preparation at the Hand of God. He tumbled them in that stream until the moment they were to be released. Our words should be the same. They are not for killing sheep but killing giants.

John 8:4-11 (NLT) “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

The woman was caught in flagrant and obvious sin. The religious folks including teachers and Pharisees brought her to Jesus – she was caught in the act. They put her in front of the crowd. They each had stones in hand ready to exact the Law of Moses. They asked Jesus, “What do you say?” His response, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” It did not take long to empty the place. Jesus turned to the woman and asked, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you? “No, Lord,” she replied. Jesus set her free. “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

We are so quick to condemn others with our words. I don’t think it is an overt act but one that is covered by religion and self-righteousness that smacks of the Law rather than God’s Love. A relationship with Jesus Christ does not condemn us but frees us. We are given the grace to know Him more. We are given unconditional love that knows our faults and failures from before we meet Jesus on the earth until the time we meet Him face to face. I hate the statement that someone has one foot in Christ and one in the world. It is not possible. We live in this world but are not of this world. To be in Christ is not a religious or judgmental possible but to become so clothed in His Love and wrapped tightly in the Robe of His Righteousness that Light breaks through darkness setting others free. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the Glorious Standard God set forth. Many Christians are still doing it today without even knowing it.

What if we considered a word like a stone in our hand? What if we became intention about only throwing rocks at the Goliath rather than pummeling our sheep in the head? If we throw rocks at sheep they will scatter, running for cover, looking for refuge in other things, and hidden in the darkness just to survive. David went into the battle with faith in God. God who fights for us. The Lord was His Victory. His voice projected faith and confidence in God alone. Not his skill or ability to kill the giant, but God’s Promise that the big man was going down. He entered with a staff. The staff was used to guide the sheep. The hooked used to pull them out of their mess, or deliver them from trouble. What are we using our staff for today?

The woman was caught in her sin. The church set out to make an example of her. How quickly we forget what the Lord has done for us? His Grace is sufficient for me, but does not give me the right to throw careless words about. Our words hold power. They can do way more than break bones. Do not be deceived. Your hidden conversation is not as private as you think. There are days when I must shut my mouth completely as not to let an idle word slip out. Careless conversation is like stoning someone to death without even knowing it.

Psalm 19:14 (NLT) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The words of our mouth are a direct reflection of the contents of our heart. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What do your words reveal? It matters less what you say to their face, then what you say about others in private. The Word of God gives us clear direction on the contents of godly conversation including the following:

The Words of the Godly are:

Life (Proverbs 10:11)

Knowledge (Proverbs 10:13) Reveal our understanding of Christ and His Way

Valuable (Proverbs 10:20; 20:15)

Encouraging (Proverbs 10:21)

Wise Advice (Proverbs 10:31)

Helpful (Proverbs 10:32)

A Benefit (Proverbs 12:14)

Healing (Proverbs 12:18)

Truth (Proverbs 12:19) Withstanding the test of time

Favorable (Proverbs 13:2)

Nourishment for the Soul (Proverbs 18:20)

Instruction with Kindness (Proverbs 31:26)

God has set a standard for godly communication that the church must pay close attention to or they will kill their sheep. Your words should welcome other into the fold. Express the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. We must examine the stones in our hand, heart and mouth to determine their direction in each conversation.

Romans 14:10-13 (NLT) So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

Some say that the truth hurts, maybe the truth you choose to live in. My Truth came wrapped in flesh to set me free. He died on a Cross to save me, heal me and deliver me. His Love so thick it wrapped itself around my heart and is the life and breath that I breathe. His Grace so sufficient that even when I fall it picks me right back up. The Truth in my life is Light that gives me hope. He has given my life new purpose to have all that He has promised according to His Word. My faith is not in my ability to live a perfect life but that He is and always be enough. He is the Word that came inside me and is changing my heart. His Language is Love. Always love. Never condemnation. When I use the words I am given to throw at another rather than pulling them close and loving them like Jesus loves me, I am no longer a giant killer but a Pharisee in the making.

My mouth was made to give the Lord praise and adoration. It is to declare my allegiance to Jesus Christ which is always wrapped in His Love and full of His Grace. I must make sure that my attitude and actions right down to every single word I speak draws people closer to the Lord rather than causing them to stumble and fall. Even if I am misunderstood, it is my humble position to apologize and continue to love them no matter what they do or say. Pride can never be my motivation again. I must live to love others with every breath in my body. Jesus help me to examine the contents of my heart and every word of conversation so the context remains in Your Truth according to Your Word, following Your Way which always leads to love, forgiveness and freedom.

Proverbs 15:4 (NLT) Gentle words are a tree of life.

Can you imagine your words like the stones in the stream before David? He selected them carefully. We must do the same. Our words hold power once released. We must be sure of their trajectory. Aimed at giants produce victory. Carelessly hurled at sheep only lead to death and defeat. Have some wandered? Stop talking about them and go get them. Jesus never forced His Love on anyone. He met their need in their current condition. His Love drew them in. His Grace pulled their heart strings. His Kindness lead them to repentance. Faith is born of love not hate. Hope is confidence that in spite of me – He has a Purpose, Plan and Promise for my life that is worth having. What is the Gospel shared? Love. It should always be love. Drop the rocks, people. Shut the death door. Consider carefully the contents of every conversation. Does it lead to life? Is it Light in the darkness? Is it freedom to others? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it useful? Is it even true? I am pondering these thoughts and ideas today. I challenge you to do the same. Sticks and stones do harm people including us even more than we think. Lord, please take a coal from your altar and touch my lips so I may worthy to praise you again.

Isaiah 6:5-8 (NLT) Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

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