A couple of years ago there was a criminal case that made headlines.  It made the news because of the unusual nature of the case.  A young woman was charged with essentially being like an accomplice to murder, even though she did not physically harm anyone directly.  Over the course of several months she had sent dozens and dozens of texts insulting her boyfriend and putting him down.  The texts repeatedly said he was worthless and even encouraged him to take his own life.  He finally reached a point where he was on the verge of doing just that and she kept encouraging him to and insulting him until he actually went through with it.  That is why she was being charged. The prosecutor was making the case that the girlfriend had mentally driven him to despair. 

Jesus knew about the destructive power of words and emotions.  In the Book of Matthew he says, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”   Jesus has a really harsh warning to those who would use their words to cut down others.  He reminds his listeners that just because they may not have literally taken someone’s life, they may have destroyed someone’s spirit through the horrible things they have said. 

Most of us know how hurtful words can be.  We have been cut down by what others have said about us and we have probably cut down others ourselves through the things we have said.  Such insults and jabs can be amplified today by social media, such as twitter, where people can “troll” others on-line with a constant barrage of insults and put downs that may become overwhelming for those who are receiving them. 

What would it mean to be more conscious of the kinds of words we are using?  What would it mean to be as careful on-line with our words as we would in person?  What would it mean to be less criticizing and more affirming of others?

-Pastor Erik Goehner