(I was the guest chapel speaker at a private elementary school on the anniversary of 9/11. This was written for those elementary aged children.)
Some people say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” I have heard that saying many times but I don’t believe it at all! Sticks and stones hurt all right, but I believe words can hurt just as much or more! I’ve been hit with stones before, and I’ve been scratched with a stick too! I have a scar by my eye that reminds me of a day long ago at a bus stop when a mean boy hit me in the face with a stick! And someone threw a baseball at my back, and it HURT!
But one time, long ago, when I was about your age, I got hit with words, and those words hit me hard! Those words hurt way worse than any stick or stone! It happened at school, a small private school very much like this school! Sadly, like any school, private or otherwise, there were some mean kids who said hurtful words to me. Those words hurt so badly that I could barely breathe.
The halls at this school were outside and had cement floors. The halls were covered to protect us from weather, and there were big arches that supported the roof of the halls. These halls had great acoustics so words and sound resonated within their walls. Sounds that I can still hear today.
It was in those walls which were supposed to protect me, that the kids laughed at me. They called me horrible names and pointed at me. More than once, when no adult person was looking, this one mean kid would come up behind me and push me down. The sound of my body slamming on the cement and echoing throughout the entire hallway is recorded in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Kids stepped on my arms, legs and back as they stepped over me.
The most powerful muscle in the human body is the tongue! In Proverbs, the bible says that mean words are like a sword thrust! A sword can really hurt someone! A sword can kill someone! In James it says “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the captain directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life.”
Your tongue can destroy someone like a sword, it can set a field on fire, although it is very small, it is very powerful!
If you put a bit in the mouth of a horse, so their tongue can’t move freely, you control the whole horse. If you control your tongue, it will help you control your whole life so that it is pleasing to God, and does not hurt other people, rather, enriches the lives of those you meet.
Psalm 141:3 gives us a “bit”, that we can put in our mouths to help us control our tongue. The verse says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” We must remember every day to pray and ask the Lord to put a bit in our mouths, and to watch over the door of our lips so we don’t open that door in a way that will hurt others!
Although the tongue is the strongest muscle in our body, our heart is the source of the mean things we do and the things we say with our tongue. So before we can think of really taming our tongue, we must guard our heart.
The bible says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” Well, if guarding our heart makes “springs of life” flow from it, then if we don’t guard our heart, springs of death and deceit will flow from it. The bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
This all sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Our hearts are “desperately wicked”, and our tongues destroy people! That sounds terrible! The truth is, that’s exactly right! That’s why we need Jesus! Jesus loves you so much, and He doesn’t want you to be sad, or hurt, and He certainly doesn’t want you to hurt others or make them sad! I bet most of you have been hurt very deeply by a friend or family member, and you know that it does NOT feel good! And I bet most of you have hurt someone with your words before too.
This month is the anniversary of 9/11, the terrible terrorist attack on America. On that day, some very bad people with desperately wicked hearts and destructive tongues came to America. They stole some planes and flew them right into two very, very tall buildings in New York called the Twin Towers. Thousand of people were killed because those people had ugly wicked hearts and they did not love Jesus. Those bad people did not control their tongues, and they did not guard their hearts, and they did the worst thing possible, the worst form of bullying I have ever heard of.
The bible says “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If our heart is full of Jesus, and the love and joy and kindness He brings, the words of our mouth will be words of love and joy and kindness! But if our hearts are filled with wickedness, then wickedness will pour out of our mouths.
We have talked a bit about our tongue being the strongest muscle in our body, and our heart being the source of what our mouth says, now let’s talk a little about our brain!
The bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things!” Think on these things, let them fill your heart so that from the abundance of your heart, your mouth will speak love and life to everyone you meet!
Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving us your Word so that we can learn what we need to do to control our tongue and speak kindness to those around us. Remind us every day to guard our hearts from anything that would cause us to have an untamed tongue and hurt others with our words. Hide Your Word in our hearts, so our words won’t hurt others, but will point them to You! We love you!