Sword or Scalpel?

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In Julius Caesar, the tragedy by William Shakespeare, the playwright records a scene where Caesar is stabbed to death on the senate floor. His death comes at the hands of several senators, most notably including his friend, Marcus Brutus. With Brutus delivering the final jab wound, Caesar is said to utter the words “Et tu Brute?” (i.e. You too Brutus), pained by his physical wounds and his betrayal. While I’ve never physically stabbed anyone as these senators did (and have no plans to anytime soon, thank you), I can relate to the metaphor as it is taken up by Solomon in Proverbs chapter 12.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts… (v. 18a)

How many of us learned the sadly flawed children’s saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and yet are still sore from a wound that was caused by the words of someone we knew? Our words are powerful. Elsewhere in Proverbs we are told that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We must wield our words wisely, giving weight to their potency, for “there is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts…”

but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (v.18b)

Earlier today I took both of my children to the pediatrician to receive some vaccinations. It’s a hard thing to watch your child cry as he or she knows that you are willingly allowing them to endure the stabbing pain of the shot. As a father I do so in the belief that there is healing in the vaccine (at least in the preventative sense). So I acknowledge that rash words are like a sword thrust, but wise words are not necessarily painless. For sometimes healing requires pain too, but the wise wield their words skillfully like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon, or a vaccination needle in the hands of a caring nurse.

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