By the end of 1945, nearly six-million Jews had died at the hands of the Nazi Regime. This happened between the years of 1939 to 1945. That’s a period of six years!
In 1994, an estimated 500,000 to one-million Tutsi were killed in the mass genocide in the African country of Rwanda.
Between the years 1992- 1995, over 8,000 Bosnians were killed due to genocide.
From the years 2003 to 2017, the Iraqi population of people who identify as Christians has decreased from 1.5 million to around 200,000 due to mass murder.
Why do I bring up these horrible statistics in a discussion about our tongues?
I would dare say that most people didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I’m going to go and eliminate an entire population of people. These horrible atrocities happened because people were swayed into action by charismatic people who had an ability to use words.
Adolf Hitler, Father of the Nazi Regime, was one of the greatest public speakers the world has ever seen, and because of this men, women, and children followed him and approved of Nazi death camps.
The tongue is such a little thing, but it is probably the deadliest weapon any human can possess, as evident by the statistics I cited a moment ago. Perhaps you’ve never considered it in any great detail. For a few minutes, we are going to get real and truly talk about what it means when James states, that "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity and that the tongue can defile the body, set on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell." (James 3: 5-6)
When James speaks about the tongue, he isn’t talking about our physical tongues. He is discussing our words. The very words that come from our hearts. The Proverbs writer states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Christ also states, that “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45)
Who we are inside is evident by the words we use, and how we use them. As Christians, we must remember that we are to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), we are to encourage others with our very lives (I Peter 1:15), and that we must be ever mindful of what we say and what we do (Ephesians 4:29).
Good words, kindness can uplift those around us, but harsh, cruel words can destroy.
According to the website Bullying and Suicide, the following statistics are true:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bullying victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. (If this statistic is accurate, that’s over 2,000 children a year that commit suicide because of bullying.)
Bullying is defined as using force to intimidate another person into doing something; however, in many cases, we see that children are not physically attacked, but rather verbally abused by their peers.
Notice the following statistics from NVEEE.org:
- Every 7 MINUTES a child is bullied. Adult intervention – 4%. Peer intervention – 11%. No intervention – 85%.
- Biracial and multiracial youth are more likely to be victimized than youth who identify with a single race.
- Bullied students tend to grow up more socially anxious, with less self-esteem and require more mental health services throughout life.
- Only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying, yet 33% of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying.
- Kids who are obese, gay, or have disabilities are up to 63% more likely to be bullied than other children.
- A MILLION children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on FACEBOOK during the past year.
- 86% of students said, “other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in schools.
- It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
- American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims.
What we say and how we say what we say must always be considered. Our words influence people in ways we may never know for the good or the bad. Sadly, we all know if we are purposefully cruel to those around us.
Have I ever said mean things to people at school or at church services?
Have I ever intentionally hurt someone’s feelings, or made them look bad?
Am I trying to treat everyone, regardless of how they look, their race, their religion, or their belief system as Christ has instructed me to do? Remember the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)? Christ teaches us that everyone is our neighbor. And, how are we to treat our neighbors?
Mark 12: 28-31 reads,
And one of the scribes came and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Perhaps there are some of us who have had mean things said about us or been treated unfairly. Maybe we’ve even been bullied. Most of us know the pain mean words can bring to us. I know there have been times in my life (even as an adult) that I’ve been a victim of bullying, name calling, and more. Unfortunately, when I was a child, I didn’t have the support system available to me that each of you in this room have. I didn’t know I could turn to an adult and tell them what was going on. I felt hopeless, and I felt desperate. Today, you don’t have to feel that way.
If you are being bullied, please tell someone. I cannot express the importance of telling someone. Sometimes all it takes to change our situations is to talk about it with someone who can help. It is so important that we understand we are not alone. You’re not. Each person in this room knows what it means to be treated unkindly or to be called names. Thank God, we have each other to lean on.
The tongue, our words, truly are the most powerful weapons we have. Words can persuade people to do great things, or persuade people to commit great atrocities. Our words can teach the gospel, or convince those around us to never ever obey the gospel. With this kind of power in our hands, we must learn to use it wisely.
We must train ourselves to speak kind words.
We must think before we speak.
We must ask ourselves why we are saying something. Is it to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down? If so, we need to bite our tongues.
We can choose to live righteously before God, and we can learn to use our words wisely. We can temper our thoughts, and consider the things we have to say, and we can be kind to others around us, even when they are different from us. We just have to choose to do so.