Sticks and stones: Tools can help build, not hurt

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2001

"Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Remember that old 'saw'? As with many other things, this saying combines a bit of truth with a bit of error. It is true that words, in and of themselves, do not physically hurt the hearers. They may, however, so inflame the passions of those to whom they are addressed, that they result in harmful actions toward the one about whom those words are spoken.

But today we want to think about sticks and stones.

When this writer was 12 years old, living on a farm in southern Missouri, a stick was something I would pick up on the way to the creek to go fishing. I would tie my line, with its hook and sinker (made of a small rock), to the stick, catch some grasshoppers along the way, and be all fixed up for fishing.

Moses had a use for a stick, also.

According to Exodus 4:2, God asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?" Moses' answer reveals he considered it to be merely an instrument for use in his occupation as a shepherd. God saw it as much more. This stick was something, something to be used as an instrument by God, at God's discretion, and for his purpose. It became, for Moses, a God designated symbol of authority for Moses to use in accomplishing God's purpose for Israel.

How often you and I see our resources as totally inadequate, in light of the opportunities or obstacles before us. God, however, sees what we have (puny and weak though it be) as an opportunity for him to demonstrate his power and purpose, and, as a result, to receive to himself the honor and credit for the task accomplished.

What about stones? No self-respecting boy would even dream of standing beside a river, creek or lake without seeing how far he could skip a rock on the water. Without stones, where could he get ammunition for his slingshot?

How would David, the shepherd boy of Bible fame, ever have been prepared to kill Goliath, if he had not made use of stones with his sling?

The stones of our proverb are used to bring hurt to people.

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was the "guest of honor" at the first rock party. The stones killed him. Some early Christians were tied along with dogs into sacks weighed down with stones, then thrown into the river. In their frenzy to escape, the dogs usually killed the Christians. What a horrible use of stones!

Yet the Bible draws an especially delightful picture, when it describes Christians as "living stones" that "are being built up as a spiritual house." 1 Peter 2:5

How attractive a well-built house is! How attention is drawn to the evidence of God's divine handiwork in the inter-relationship of his people in society.

Recently, we have seen evidence of this in the communitywide Palm Sunday worship service at Kenai Central High School. "Living stones" from a great number of different churches and denominations came together to reveal the greatness of a God, who can make something beautiful from what would normally be destructive.

Rather than throwing stones at each other, Christians united to build up one another.

Let's apply sticks and stones to build each other up, rather than to hurt.

Charles G. Thornton is the associate pastor of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. Sunday Worship is at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Bible Classes are at 9:45 a.m.

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