Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stick & Stones: Life & Death

I imagine that the great majority of us, as children, heard the old familiar saying which was intended to make us impervious to the hurtful words of others:

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can never hurt me.

I also imagine that most of us have grown to recognize the comprehensive lie which is embodied in that couplet.

We could have taken more than a little clue from the prolific Proverbs of Solomon regarding the tongue.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

"The gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."

Or from James, who warns us that:

"...the tongue sets on fire the course of nature and is set on fire from hell...it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."

Words matter.  The power of life and death are in the tongue.  We can destroy others by fierce words of hatred or by less-violent but repeated stings.

We can also impart life by intentional words that build up and heal.  

Words carry theological import.  As creatures made in the Image of God, our words have creative power.  Not "ex nihilo" power, but they create new realities for the receivers of them.  Will we create realities of mercy and life or of destruction and death?

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