Little Isabella studied the sticks along the curb strip and proudly held one up as treasure. “Stick!” She put it in the trunk of her little pink car and proceeded to pedal down the block. Next, she spied a stone in the driveway and got out to claim it as her own. “Stone!” So it went, as we continued our afternoon adventure: “Stick! Stone! Stick! Stone!” until the trunk of her little car was full.
The chanting took me back to my childhood days on the playground when friends would taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” How strong and wise we thought we were. Time would reveal that we were neither. King Solomon nailed it when he said: “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” (Prov. 12:18) “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21) “With their words, the godless destroy their friends.” (Prov. 11:9)
How often have words spoken in haste or the heat of anger brought death and destruction? Words have power. They shatter relationships, dash dreams, split churches, and polarize families, neighborhoods, and nations. “The tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8) With it we bless the Lord and with it we curse people who are made in His likeness. It shouldn’t be. (James 3:9-10)
The Psalmist says, “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing can offend them.” (Psalm 119:165) How do I overcome venomous words hurled against me and not take offense? I look to Jesus. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He was falsely accused, He answered not a word. Peering down from the cross at those who mocked and falsely accused Him, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. If Christ reigns in me by His Spirit, I can choose to do the same.
When I surrender my will, He gives me the power to choose my responses. He gives me eyes to see the spiritual battle for what it is. My enemy is not flesh and blood. I can hold up the shield of faith to extinguish his fiery darts. With the sword of the Spirit, I can refute his lies and declare what’s true about God, myself, and my circumstances. I do not have to let the enemy’s words defeat me or define me.
It’s true that some words are hard to forget, but I can choose not to remember and in Christlike love keep no record of wrongs. By fixing my eyes on Jesus and choosing to walk as He walked, I can put them behind me. By keeping myself in His love and asking Him to put His words in my mouth, I can overcome evil with good and bring Him glory. Jesus only spoke what His Father gave Him to say (John 12:49). By faith and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, I can choose to do the same.
Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. If my heart is aligned with the Lord, I can speak the truth in love as the Spirit gives me utterance and opportunity. I can bless and not curse. I can choose a gentle answer to turn away wrath or answer not a word. Rooted and grounded in my Father’s love, I can say to the devil, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
“Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word that gives me victory over my enemies. Thank You for Your Spirit at work in me, conforming me to the image of Christ. Thank You for the grace to forgive those who have hurt me and bless those who persecute me. Let Your love be perfected in me so that the words of my mouth bring You glory and give life to many in Jesus’ name.”