Indeed, words have power. Words can ruin reputations and destroy families, lives, and relationships. Words are often the primary suspect in the loss of self-confidence, poor self-image, and the loss of will and determination. When I was a child, a popular nursery rhyme stated, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. However, time has revealed that while we must not allow ourselves to remain victimized by the power of negative words, we cannot divorce ourselves from the reality that what we say actually matters.
In the book of Genesis, God gives humanity dominion over all of the earth which included the power to name things. A name seeks to describe something’s essential nature. Naming conventions seek to define what something is, how it should be perceived, and often results in an established social rank or order. For even greater biblical illumination, we should consider the Gospel of Mark. Mark 10:46-52 tells us of a blind man named Bartimaeus. Many theologians proffer that Bartimaeus means son of “the unclean”. His name alone creates a persona of filth and immorality. Now, I don’t know who gave him that name, but the one or ones who did exercised an oppressive power over his life and defined him as “less than”. Apparently, it was not enough to call him Bartimaeus; they also referred to him as “blind Bartimaeus”. Therefore, they were not defining him by the content of his character, but by his physical condition, placing him on the margins of society.
Today, many of us suffer under the oppressive power of what words and names have manifested in our own lives. The names that we were called as children, how we have been classified into different segments of society by the sheer nature of our condition, rather than by who we are as a person, have caused many to lack purpose, confidence, and a sense of hope. The current state and tone of America’s political campaigns is an excellent depiction of the nasty business of utilizing words and names to invalidate, separate, and devalue.
We must choose our words carefully, purposing them as tools of encouragement and edification. We must not allow people to degrade us by what they have labeled us. We are more than our social and physical conditions. The fact that Bartimaeus was blind,and that he was a beggar because he could not take care of himself, did not mean that he lacked hope, self-worth, or that that he lacked vision. Bartimaeus had enough spiritual sight to see Jesus and was healed as a result of his faith. Christ saw value in him. We must be careful of how we treat people and what we call people. True confidence that results from one’s relationship with God has no room for jealousy, envy, and callousness. When you know who you are and whose you are, you have no reason to hurt and to hate.