STICKS AND STONES Andy Hollifield 8-15-18
James 3:6-8 (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and seteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (7) For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: (8) But the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
A fire? A world of iniquity? Set on fire of hell? Full of deadly poison? That don’t sound like it would have anything to do with a Christian and it shouldn’t but unfortunately it does. Hair color and texture may be different, eyes size and color may be different, noses and ears may be different, smiles may be different but what lies behind those smiles is always the same and produces the same result. It either edifies and encourages or it discourages and destroys.
As children, we all probably learned the little nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”. That was something that we were taught to say to let some other kid that was saying mean stuff to us know that we weren’t hurt by what they said. It may have been good for looking tough but when you get right down to it, it was dead wrong. The fact of the matter is that words do hurt. Names hurt and getting made fun of hurts and especially when it is for stuff you can’t do anything about. Some kids are short (like me) and some are heavy or real thin. Some have big ears or noses or a lazy eye and the fortunate ones even wear glasses or braces or hearing aids to correct imperfections. The imperfections can be corrected but the malicious words, even when said in fun, still hurt. I am not whining at 53 years old about anything that happened as a child. I was such a people person that I didn’t get teased all that much about anything but my height or lack of it. My solution was to crack more short jokes about myself than anyone else did and I got them to laughing rather than someone else doing it at my expense. It worked for the most part but I still wouldn’t have minded being a little taller.
If you think back in your life there were probably some folks that were obviously less than perfect that got teased over things about their appearance or physical abilities that they couldn’t help. If you look at them now, in a lot of cases those things that they were different or maybe even deficient in drove them to excellency in other areas. Not that I ever got excellent at it, but baseball was my deficiency. Something about having a hard white object thrown at me fast and hard terrorized me. Yet, in spite of my ineptness, I played three years of little league. I wasn’t just bad, I was atrocious. I never got a hit in a game that I remember, never got on base, and never scored a run. I was better years later at slow-pitch softball. Why did I keep playing baseball? Because I belonged. I was as important of a member of those teams as the guys that were good. The way that I fit in was as an encourager. I tried to be a good teammate and cheer on the guys from the dugout and brag on them when they did good and cheer them up when they didn’t. By my third year, all my team adopted themselves names of the Cincinnati Red because back in the mid seventies, they were “the team“. I didn’t adopt a name but I got one given to me: Sparky. I was given that name because the coach of the Reds was Sparky Anderson. I guess after that year all of the nicknames faded into history except one: mine. I was called Sparky by my little league teammates all the way through high school. I even ran into one of them at a restaurant a couple of years ago and he walked up after hearing me place my order and said “Sparky, I knew that was you when I heard your voice”. Forty or more years after the fact and I still have my name. The truth is that those guys all saw early on that I wasn’t any good but they respected the fact that even though I didn’t play unless we had a big lead or it was already a lost cause, I still had my mind and heart in the game. I showed up for practice every day and even practiced against my doctor’s advice when I hurt my knee. Yes, I re-injured it.
Those guys could have made fun of me and my lack of ability but they didn’t and I kept coming back. I look back on those days with fondness not because we were champions because we weren’t. My last year I believe we finished third. There is another old saying that says, “It isn’t whether you win or lose, but it’s how you play the game that counts”. To that I say “BULL”. You don’t play to lose you play to win. You give it everything you’ve got and put your heart in it and when you come up short, you lose with dignity and sportsmanship.
I said all of that to make a point. You can make or break someone’s spirit with nothing but words. Not one time did any of those guys say “You’re no good” or “You should quit”. I was made part of the team by their words. They could have hurt me and scarred me for life maybe but I’m pretty thick-skinned. I would not have the fond memories of those days if it weren’t for the guys and how they treated me. You can sometimes hurt others by words said or taken wrong but once they’re spoken you can never really take them back.
The scripture says the tongue is full of iniquity. Iniquity only has two meanings on Dictionary.com. The first is “gross injustice or wickedness. The second is “a violation of right or duty; a wicked act; sin”. Words aren’t just words. They are weapons or tools, whichever you choose for them to be. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 the bible says “Wherefore COMFORT one another with these WORDS”. You can use them to encourage and uplift. Paul did that for 275 men at one time in Acts 27 when he told them about the words the angel spoke to him that night about how they would all survive the shipwreck. Their situation didn’t immediately change but words changed their outlook on their situation. In Matthew when the angel came to Mary and Joseph they were first frightened and then comforted by the angels words. Later on the eighth day after Jesus was born, he was brought into the temple. They were again encouraged by the words of Simeon and Anna.
In the book of Judges, the words of Sampson and Delilah caused the Philistines to win over the whole nation of Israel. The lying words of Jacob to his father changed the history of the world forever. The deceitful words of the serpent in the garden of Eden caused the fall of man. Wars are often started just by words. It doesn’t always take actions to kill someone. You can kill their influence on others forever with just a few ill-spoken words. I have been told stuff that I didn’t believe for a minute but it is always in my mind. Remember, one of the definitions is “a wicked act”. Words spoken in church to a visitor can bring them back and words not spoken will drive them away. Weapons to destroy or tools to build up. You can build with sticks and stones as well as use them to cause harm or destruction. The same is true with words. Let me close with this one scripture: Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!