Monday, March 11, 2013

The Power of Words - A Lesson from Proverbs for Kids

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." 
~Matthew 12:34
This is the last verse from scripture that I read the other night, at the close of a very long, loud, crazy day.  The words hit me hard as internally I wrestled wearily with the rising temperature between the boys.  I know that at some point every parent deals with fighting siblings, and exchanges of heated, unkind words, but for whatever reason, that day, I felt like I was the only one in the world who had to deal with such things. Oh the things we tell ourselves....

The verse from Matthew played over and over in my mind as I shifted from side to side trying to find a peaceful place to fall into slumber.  But, my mind refused to rest, as thoughts of how to handle the all-too-frequent unrest between 5 masculine personalities kept me awake.  So, then, the game of making mental lists began:  Research effects of barometric pressure and food dyes on attitudes and emotions.  Check Pinterest for creative punishments, incentives for good behavior and printable charts to keep track of everything.....

An hour later, what should have been my first resort became my last.  Prayer.

What can I do, Lord?  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks?? More like shrieks!!  Your kids are driving me crazy, Lord! I need a little help here.  The constant conflict collisions are beating up my heart and my house.  This isn't normal, this isn't them. I don't understand what's going on.  Please, give me something, anything that I can do or say to get them back on a brotherly track.
The next morning, rising before the rest of the tribe, I was very motivated to come up with and to share  a tangible lesson on the power of words with the boys.  Over the weekend, on my long run, I had listened to a podcast from Focus on the Family on family communication.  Recalling bits and pieces of it, I soon wrote out a lesson, one that I know for certain was Divinely inspired, as it was way too early (before coffee even!) in the day for me to come up with any great ideas on my own.

Here is the scripture-based teaching that I shared with the boys last week on the power of words to hurt or to heal, to inspire or to injure, to bring gladness or gloom to the heart.  I hope that you don't have a need for it in your home, but if you should, may it be as helpful to you and your children as it has been to us...

Out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth Speaks: 
A Lesson on the Power of Words
* 2 white, medium-sized bowls
* 1 can of clear soda, any flavor and maraschino cherries if you have them
* 2-3 sweet, yet nourishing foods such as honey or maple syrup
* Vinegar
* 2-3 foods that are sour, bitter and/or hot such as pickles, jalapenos and coffee
* One dry sponge, cut into a heart shape
* Lined paper and pencils for the kids to write with
* Bible

1.  Set out the two bowls (preferably white, to make the differences between the mixtures more visible), and use the bowls to separate the foods (sweets in one, bitter/sour in the other) as pictured above.
2.  Open the bible to Matthew 12:34, and set the heart-shaped sponge on top.  Read the verse to the children, then ask them to explain what they think it means.  
3.  After reading the verse, set the two bowls of  food in front of the kids. Then, give each child a piece of paper and ask them draw a vertical line down the center of the page creating two columns, one for the sweet and one for the sour/bitter/hot.  In each column, have the kids write words that describe the contents in each bowl.  They may describe not only the flavor, but also the feeling of the food in the mouth (hot, painful, sour, sweet, bubbly, yummy etc.).
5.  Next, tell the children that they are going to make a mixture in each bowl using the ingredients that you've provided, keeping separate the sweet from the sour/bitter.  In the sweet bowl, place ONLY the cherries and the soda, NOT the honey or other sweets you may have chosen.  This will be important when you begin the biblical teaching.
6. The children will begin to freely express their reactions to both mixtures, which will be very entertaining! Crinkled noses display feelings of being grossed out over the crazy sour potion, it's pungent odor and unappealing appearance. Soon, they will move away from the sour, hot and bitter mixture, and move toward a more enjoyable experience of the delicious smell of the sweet, bubbly soda with cherries.  This is the foundation you hope to create to demonstrate the point that our words can be like these two mixtures.  
7.  After the mixing is over, hand one of the children the sponge that you have cut out. Explain that each day, when we wake up, our heart is like a dry sponge that will naturally soak up whatever it first comes into contact with.  Will it soak up sweet, life-giving, kind words, or it will it be cast into hot, sour, bitter, and negative words?  What are our conversations within the family like? Which mixture do my words most closely resemble?
8. Next, explain to the children that now you are going to look to the scriptures to see what God has to say about the importance of the words we speak. Using your list of Proverbs (see below), allow the children to take turns reading one passage at a time out loud, and sharing what they think the verse means.  

9.  After you are finished reading, direct the children back to their papers with the two columns. Have them consider which words would go in the sweet/sour/bitter column, and which words would go in the sweet column.  (For example, "I hate you" or "You are stupid" and "I love you" or "Great job!" respectively.)

10.  Next, ask the kids if there are any words that they regret saying?  Words that they would like to take back, or be forgiven of?  Then, read this passage from Acts 7:59-60 (the words of St. Stephen as he was being stoned to death.):

And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." and, he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

11. Give the children an opportunity to share what lesson they can learn from St. Stephen about forgiveness.  His words of forgiveness and love were very powerful, even more powerful than the stones that brought him to his death! While positive words of love and encouragement are sweet like the soda, so are the words "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you!"

12.  Finally, give the children a few minutes to write down their own positive phrases that they want to make a resolution to practice. (A couple of my boys wrote: "How can I help?", "Are you okay?" and "I love you!" One even wrote: "Who cares about being right, let's just get over it and be friends!")
Passages From Proverbs:
(There are many, many more, these are just the few that I chose!)

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but cruel words crush the spirit. 15:4

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 18:21

There is one whose rash words would deeply as a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 12:18 

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. 16:24

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 15:1

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 29:20

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. 15:2

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. 17:27

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. 17:9


  1. Very timely! We have been working on this in our home lately (although my boys are a little bit younger than yours). Recently I heard Paul David Tripp talk on this verse from Matthew and he likened it to a story from his child of an uncle who was beyond inappropriate. His mother told him, "There is nothing that comes out of a mouth of a drunk that wasn't already there." The illustration was profound and convicting as what comes out of our mouths is directly stemming from what is in our hearts! This is a great lesson for children and adults as we learn to respond rightly to conviction and grow in santification through Christ. I will be pinning this for sure!

    1. Thank you for pinning! I hope that this lesson becomes a tool that will help parents to teach children the truth that the Lord really does desire for us to particular in our speech and communication!

  2. Thanks, Susan. We've had a rough few weeks. I will do this lesson with my boys. The other day the house was so loud and crazy I said, "I need a tea party!" To my surprise a couple of the boys said they'd have a tea party with me. :)

  3. I love this devotion and I am going to be using with my students. You mention holding out the honey and syrup for later in the bible lesson--but I don't see where those come into play? Am I missing it? Or can you clarify please!

    1. Hi Sarah! Gosh, I did this study with the boys so long ago, I can't quite remember why I mentioned saving the syrup/honey for later, except that it was there just to be a visual for the kids for the "sweet" column of descriptions. I don't recall using those items for any other reason, since they only sample the soda/cherry mixture. I hope it works out for you! Thanks for stopping by! God bless!

  4. This was a terrific object lesson - thank you so much.


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