Proverbs 18:21 | 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14 | Colossians 4:6

Sticks and stones?

Not long ago, there was a popular children’s saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” This saying has likely been forgotten, because folks today seem more sensitive than ever about what other people say.

Maybe folks today are just acknowledging how powerful words are. Scripture has plenty to say in support of this.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Proverbs 18:21 NLT

Proverbs says the tongue can bring life or death. Wow–those are some serious extremes! Which will you choose?

The life or death here is that of the speaker. Mouth off to the wrong guy…and BAM! Or mouth off about the wrong guy…BAM! If you love to talk trash, you will reap the stinking consequences.

As you know, your words also affect others. That’s why the Apostle Paul recommends you keep your speech uplifting.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 NLT

Warn people, encourage people, and be patient. Those are all ways you can speak life. 

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

If you are a follower of Christ, remember that other people hear your words. Everyone needs to vent sometimes, but should your conversations always have dark clouds hanging over them?

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:6 NLT

Who wants to hear a bunch of grousing or negative talk all the time? Praise God with your words. Worship him with your conversations. Be encouraging, not critical. Give sincere compliments when possible. When people who don’t know God hear that, it’s attractive. They might not understand, but something in them wants to hear those hopeful, life-giving words instead of the cynical talk to which many are accustomed. 

Before you open your mouth, remember what Paul said and make a choice: life, or death. Speak life!

Questions for Group Discussion

  • What are some specific ways you can speak life on a daily basis? What are some ways to speak life in less common situations?
  • Is the old Sticks and Stones saying still true? Can words still never hurt you? How can you be unfazed by unkind or inconsiderate words?
  • Should people be allowed to say unkind or insensitive things? If not, what would the world look like? What about free speech–is that just freedom to say ‘the right things’? Who decides what is right?

Application: Words of Life

We need a little less talk, and a lot more action…which, in this case, is actually a little more talk.

Below are some general ways to speak life on an ongoing basis. Try them!

  1. Speak to others the way you would like to be spoken to.
  2. Tell the truth–there’s no such thing as a “little white lie”. Lies are lies, no matter how well-intended.
  3. Give compliments whenever possible; only criticize when a correction can be made. Answer the artist with what you like about their painting–especially if the paint’s already dry.
  4. Take every opportunity to encourage others with what you say.
  5. If scripture pops into your head, use it in your speech. But you don’t have to cite the chapter and verse, (etc.,) or even that they are scripture.

If you think of other ways, we would love to hear about them!