“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words (names) will never harm me.” This could not be further from the truth. Words harm. They hurt. They sting. They destroy. They can build up or tear down. They can encourage or discourage. They can heal or they can hurt.
The Bible has many things to say about words. They can be positive. “A wise teacher’s words spur students to action and emphasize important truths” (Proverbs 12:11). They wound. “What dainty morsels rumours are but they sink deep into one’s heart” (Proverbs 26:22). They stir up wrath. “A gentle answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Words can sustain you. “The sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones” (Isaiah 50:4). They can determine destiny. Jesus said to those who discredited His power, “And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words that you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36, 37).
What we say reveals who we are inside. “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good words from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil words from an evil heart” (Matthew 12:35).
Jesus used His words wisely. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin went to see Him one evening. When Jesus explained to him that unless a person is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus thought He was talking about physical birth. He exclaimed, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus was talking about a different type of birth–a spiritual birth. He was talking of being born again but in the spirit. Jesus explained further but Nicodemus still didn’t get it. Jesus said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:10). He did not embarrass Nicodemus by saying to him, “You call yourself a teacher and yet you cannot grasp what I am saying to you?” He chose His words carefully.
Later Jesus was talking to the woman at the well and when she admitted that she wasn’t married, He commended her saying, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” He did not put her down by saying, “You have been married five times. Now you are living with a man out of wedlock. Have you no shame?”
In both conversations, Jesus was gracious. His words were honest but tempered with love and tact. He brought things to light. He taught them about spiritual matters–being born again and the proper way to worship God.
When all is said and done, Jesus’ words had a positive effect on both of these people. Nicodemus defended Jesus to the chief priests and Pharisees. He said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” They turned on him and demanded, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”
Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ body, bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified they laid Him in a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid (John 19:40-42).
“Now, the Jews were trying to destroy the infant church, Nicodemus came forward in its defense. No longer cautious and questioning he encouraged the faith of the disciples and used his wealth in helping to sustain the church at Jerusalem and in advancing the work of the gospel. Those who in other days had paid him reverence now scorned and persecuted him, and he became poor in this world’s goods; yet he faltered not in the defense of his faith” – Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, page 105.
After learning that Jesus was the Messiah, The Samaritan woman went and told her community “Come and meet a Man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?” The people went with her to see Jesus and as a result many believed in Him.
We are advised not to use foul or abusive language. Everything we say must be good and helpful, so that our words will encourage those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29). Our words should bring honor and glory to God and blessings to others.