Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

Growing up I was taught this “memorable” little saying, but before realizing how untrue it was, I experienced the powerful impact of the spoken word. So have you. We rarely hear this saying anymore because we have all experienced the power of words. Words can build up, but they can also tear down. They can infuse us with courage and faith or fear and unbelief. This is not new; it has been taking place since the beginning, in the ancient garden of Eden. The serpent used words to communicate half-truths to Eve, who then used words to lure her husband. Then together they used words to try and cover up their sin and shift the blame.

The Bible indicates that words reveal the true condition of a person’s heart; this was true in the Garden and it’s true today.

The Bible indicates that words reveal the true condition of a person’s heart; this was true in the Garden and it’s true today. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So, the words we speak, over time, reveal the actual condition of our heart, and our heart matters to God. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).

The Bible has some of the clearest and most profound insights and warnings about our words and our speech. Here are just a few:

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” (Matthew 12:36)

“So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:5-6, 10)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Because God loves us, He wants us to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. He gives us clear and concise warnings about the tongue, our speech, the words we use, and why it matters so much. What we say impacts those who hear us speak, those closest to us. They may not tell us how we are affecting them, but we are either building them up or tearing them down.

Words that are hurtful, words that grieve God and others, include gossip, lying, deceit, vengeful words, jealous words, complaining words, slanderous and back-biting words, grumbling words, sharp, profane words, and angry words. These kinds of words hurt, destroy, divide, and create chaos and disunity. They hurt not only the person you are speaking to, but the one you may be speaking about.

Because God wants us to be blessed and to be a blessing to others, He gives us clear and concise warnings about our words and why they matter so much.

Words that are helpful, words that build others up and bless the Lord, include words of encouragement, words of grace and truth, words showing care and concern, insight words, joyful words, pleasant words, words that bless, words that give courage, and words that make others better because they’ve been near us.

So, let’s agree to not speak words that tear down and hurt others but ONLY words that build up, bless, and benefit others. Then we will be in good standing with God and others.

Copyright © 2020 Mike Moran. All rights reserved.


Mike Moran has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 30 years in numerous roles including lead pastor, executive pastor, and most recently as the interim lead pastor of New Life Community Church in Ukiah, CA. Mike works with Interim Pastor Ministries to serve churches through their key seasons of transition, and is also a member of Strategic Renewal’s Transformational Ministry Team. He and his wife reside in Modesto, CA.