Words! They can bless and build up, and they can curse and tear down. “O be careful little mouth what you say,” the little Bible school ditty sang, and we need to be careful. Horrible, irreparable damage can be done by the words you say. Be careful what you say to your children. Put downs, and statements that devalue and make your children question their worth often take a life time to get over. Many counseling sessions have as their theme the residue of parental put downs. And the fire rages in many an adult’s heart from what was sparked by their parents’ tongue. In our marriages, spouses hear more loudly words of criticism, and so every word of criticism must be tempered with three words of love and appreciation. "Sticks and tones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me," is a lie. Words hurt and their affects are hard to erase.
Certainly vicious hatreds and attacks can be fueled by what is said by the mouth. The rise of Nazi Germany was generated by Adolf Hitler and his speeches, and the horrible hatred of the Jewish people was inflamed by hateful rhetoric. A few years ago, the pope learned that the word he chooses can impact his relationship with Muslims, and he is now learning the importance of being careful with what he says in this volatile time when a huge blaze of violence can be sparked by a word. Church communities and pastorates can be greatly harmed by gossip and the passing around of damaging statements that fuel assumptions and mistrust. “The tongue is a fire,” indeed!
But can the tongue, also, be a blessing? Yes indeed! Some of the best things your tongue can say are: “I am sorry,” “I love you,” “You are forgiven,” “You did a good job,” “I like what you did there,” “Can we talk about it,” “Let’s work this out together,” “What can I do for you,” “Let me help you,” “What would you like?” Can you think of any others? Think of how the world, the church, your home might be so much more peaceful and hopeful if we all learned to say those things to each other with our tongues, and thereby finally, by words of grace, extinguish the fire of the tongue.