Are We Building or Destroying

          Two often heard children’s rhyme are “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” and “I am rubber you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” Granted words can’t cause a broken bone, but they can damage the spirit—something far more important than an arm. If you excitedly walked into a room, and then someone important to you says, “Being such a bright person, I can’t believe you couldn’t even handle this simple task I asked you to do. Even a monkey could do it.” As a one time occurrence, sure you might be able to shrug this comment off. You might not feel crushed by the end of the conversation. Yet, the emotional effect of what was said still lingers somewhere in the back of the brain.   

The beginning of Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords.” Until it was banned in 1905, China used a torture and execution technique known as “Lingchi” or death by a 1,000 cuts. James 3:5 warns that a great forest can be set ablaze by such a tiny spark. A person’s spirit can be brought down in the same way. A tiny lingering of emotion can eventually grow into a great self-destroying flame. As children of God, are our words leading others toward spiritual execution? Or, are we heartfully committed to bringing others to the healing power of Christ?

God’s wisdom brings healing because He is also known as Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Psalm 147:3 exclaims, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” As children of the Lord who heals, we are told to show others the healing compassion that He showed to us. The latter half of Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) states, “but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  One way we do this is by building others up. Ephesians 4:29 expresses this sentiment by saying that our building up should fit the occasion, that way our words will bring grace to those who hear. This ideal is also expressed in James 3:28-29 when it tells us to be filled with the wisdom from Heaven, and then apply that wisdom by being peace makers. The world will tell us to be peace keepers, but this is an entirely different sentiment.

Peace keeping brings about a feeling of compromise or give and take. It is saying, “I will do anything, even sacrifice or forsake God’s values for the outcome of worldly peace.” However, peacemaking is working with God and the situation to bring about Godly peace. Let’s say you overhear someone teasing another about their hair. Peacekeeping would be saying an even nastier joke to defend the one person and shame the other. A peacemaker would instead say that hair cut looks really good on the person and if you were more adventurous you might do the same. Most bullies like it when the odds of power are in their favor. By balancing or tipping the scales toward the defender’s side, you not only would have built up the victim, but you also would have made peace when the bully gives up. Even though this is a simple example, every situation has an opportunity for us to be guides to the path of God or the world. Will your tongue become a guide to the waters of eternal life or the engulfing flames of sin?