“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”
If you’ve been around life for more than a few years, you know that’s incorrect. We wish it were true. We hope it’s true. But we know it’s not. We’d rather someone break our bones than cut us with their words.
Because bones heal in about six weeks but someone’s words can make our hearts bleed for years. If those words are harsh enough at the right moment in our lives—childhood, for example—it can affect us our entire lives.
Words have the power to build and the power to kill. They are powerful weapons against evil and, if unchecked, for evil.
The Teacher of Israel, King Solomon, certainly understood this reality. In Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 he writes:
12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. 13 At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness— 14 and fools multiply words. No one knows what is coming— who can tell someone else what will happen after them? 15 The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town.
The consequences of words on the lips of the foolish are dangerous. Mostly, for themselves. The longer a foolish person talks, the less sense they make. But also, the more they speak, the more they begin believing their madness.
Remember, words do not occur in a vacuum. Instead, they are the overflow of what’s happening in our hearts. The words of the wise are wise because the person speaking them is wise. Likewise, foolish speech comes from a foolish heart.
There’s a dire warning to us in verse 15: the foolish are so foolish they cannot even provide simple directions. When we heed the advice of foolish counselors, they give us bad counsel—and we should expect nothing less! If they are our counselors, we trust them. Since we trust them, we heed their counsel.
And now, we’re just as lost as the fool giving us the misdirection.
What does foolish counsel look like?
Counsel telling you to give up on what God has called you to do.
Counsel telling you God doesn’t plan to use you in His Kingdom.
Counsel telling you to operate in ways contrary to God’s Word.
Don’t give in to it. Know your source. The words they give may not be the life-giving truth of Jesus. It may just be rambling of a fool enjoying the sound of their own voice and so-called expertise.
Trust the wisdom coming from God. Trust the words flowing from those who spend time with God. Because the words of the wise will give you life while the words of the fools will only get you lost.