“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” goes the childhood nursery rhyme. But as we all know, this little saying isn’t exactly true. Words can and do hurt—often for a very long time.
Take a moment to think back to your childhood—how many times did you get hurt by something that someone said to you? And how many times did you lash out, hurting others without really intending to because you just wanted to defend yourself.
As we become more mature, we learn that we need the Lord to defend us. “Do not take revenge,” we are told in Romans 12:19, “but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (NIV).
Words are very important. The book of Proverbs is filled with practical truth and wisdom regarding so many aspects of life, including wisdom about words. In Proverbs 12 we read the following gems: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (vs. 18); “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (vs. 22); “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (vs. 23).
The Proverbs are not only filled with wisdom, but they contain many promises, such as:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Pr. 15:1); “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends (Pr. 17:9); and “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Pr. 17:27,28).
Throughout the Bible, wisdom and compassion go hand in hand. We read in Gospel Workers that “The religion of Jesus softens whatever is hard and rough in the temper, and smooths whatever is rugged and sharp in the manners. It makes the words gentle and the demeanor winning. Let us learn from Christ how to combine a high sense of purity and integrity with sunniness of disposition. A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity” (Gospel Workers, p. 122).
And friends, today more than ever, we need kind, courteous Christians--especially in the world of social media and other instantaneous forms of public communication! It’s so easy to respond immediately to something we find upsetting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other channel. But the Lord asks us to pass everything—every thought, every word, every Tweet, every post—through the filter of His wisdom and grace.
And Christian tact and grace isn’t just for public forums: it actually begins in the home. How do we speak to our spouse and children? To parents, brothers, or sisters? In the workplace, how do we respond when under pressure? In Zoom meetings, texts, phone conversations, emails, and other forms of communication, are we truly using Christian tact in the way we respond to others?
Jesus is our model. We read in that beautiful book, The Desire of Ages: “Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention . . . He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul.”
As we see prophecy fulfilling rapidly, it’s so important that we represent our Lord publicly, and in private, with the right demeanor and a sweet, humble spirit. This can only come as we are in daily communion with Him, asking for the indwelling of His Spirit to provide the revival and reformation we need today.
As we face the closing events of earth’s history, may we speak the truth in tones of conviction, but always with Christian tact and grace, all through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Let us pray together. Father in Heaven, thank you that you have given us the ability to use words to create thoughts. But Lord we know that the tongue is a very challenging thing when it comes to control and so we would like to entrust our minds, our mouth, our tongues, our words into your hands. Give us your spirit. Give us your way. Help us to be filled with kindness and tact. We know that is only possible as we are in connection with you and as the Holy Spirit takes over our demeanor. So, Lord take control of us and use us in a powerful way. May our words lift people up. May we be part of the ministry of reconciliation, bringing people together as we come to the very end of time in Christ soon return. Thank you for hearing us and thank you for helping us to speak the right word at the right time. In Jesus' name we ask it, amen.