What’s in a Name? The Power of Words and God’s Word

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Words carry a great deal of power. Names and specific words have so much meaning and connotation, and sometimes we forget or fail to recognize how significant these elements are. It is important for children to understand that what they say is important, and that names and words are important, too.
Lesson focus: God gives us language as a special gift; words are significant and names are, as well.
Passage: Proverbs 12:18; 16:24; Joshua 3:9, 8:34; Job 4:4; Psalm 12:6, 119:103; James 3
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Bubbles, balloons, and bubble gum; paper and decorative materials; scrabble tiles and letter stickers.
Lesson Opening: Start out with a couple of word games, which can be adjusted depending on age, ability, and sizing of the group.
-Using tiles from Scrabble (or just letters on paper), have partners or groups of students select a handful of letters and see what words can be made from them. See who can come up with the most words.
-Invite students to think about some words. Given a word, ask them to name the first thing that comes to mind when they hear that word. Examples include love, sports, book, school, Christmas, holy, or worm (just to name a few). Emphasize how we think of different things when we hear words, and everyone has their own sort of interpretation of names.
-Write a multiple meaning word on a board, and have students illustrate a cartoon of how they perceive the word. Do one yourself.
-Write a simple word and have students make an acrostic poem.
-Play hangman!
-Talk about names and the meaning of names, or the story behind names.
Bible Lesson:
Tell students that you will be talking about words. Words are very important things. They have powerful potential and meanings. Invite kids to peek at the book of James for some initial thoughts on words:
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.  -James 3:2
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. -James 3:7-10

Whoa. Speaking of words, those are some powerful ones! Now, we might not be able to “make what we say perfect” or “keep our whole body in check”… but it is certainly true that our words have the potential to do great—or horrific things. Think of bullies and how their words impact feelings. Think of how easy it is to be built up by compliment, or torn down by criticism. Look at the examples given in this James passage. The “tongue,” representing what we say, is a small part of our body. But it can do some wild things. Once something leaves your mouth, you cannot take it back. But words can also have great benefits and positive impacts, too…

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.   -Proverbs 16:24

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  -Proverbs 12:18

The book of Proverbs is full of notes like this, expressing and emphasizing how beautiful words can be and how sweet our kind comments can be. This is why we must THINK before we speak. Different phrases or individual words might have very different connotations for different people. We want to make sure we take into account how our words will impact others.
Words are also important within the Bible itself. The Word of God and His promises appear as precious treasure for the people of Israel.
Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.  -Joshua 8:34-35
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. -Exodus 20:7
Just as the word of the law and the Book of the Law were important, God’s name was (and is) valuable as well. It is one of the commandments, after all. We want to use it wisely and purposely, not casually or recklessly.
When we recognize the power of words and importance of names, we have ability to understand how beautiful our communication can be. God has given us language to talk with others and build them up, and also to praise Him, serve Him, and appreciate His words to us.   His words and their truth will never pass away!
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[c] refined seven times. -Psalm 12:6

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!  -Psalm 119:103

Have students decorate name plates with fancy paper and writing materials. Or help them write their names and attach a verse. Additionally, you may want to visit another of the above games or activities. As a take-away, present students with a “double meaning” item, like bubbles and bubble gum. For a snack, serve honeycomb cereal.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Thank Him for words, and ask Him to help us use them wisely.

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