I’ve watched enough war movies to know that hand grenades are nasty things. If someone’s got a good pitching arm and can toss a grenade in just the right spot, it can do some serious damage. And the thing about hand grenades is that you don’t even have to hit your target; you just have to get close.

Hitting tanks is a different matter. A soldier needs to toss the grenade just right to do any real damage to a tank. Too often, a grenade just bounces off before it explodes—and the tank just rolls on.

During World War II, Winston Churchill wouldn’t have this. He expected a hand grenade thrown at a tank to actually damage the tank. So, a team got to work and created Hand Grenade No. 47. It became known simply as the sticky bomb because it was a bomb … and it was sticky.

The team created a glass sphere containing nitroglycerin and other chemicals to keep it fairly stable. The glass sphere was coated in glue and then stuck inside a metal casing. The process seemed simple.

  1. Pull pin #1. With pin removed, the metal casing falls off, revealing the adhesive-soaked ball.
  2. Pull pin #2, arming the mechanism with a five-second fuse.
  3. Throw grenade.
  4. Grenade sticks to tank.
  5. Tank goes blooey.

Simple, right?

Two problems occurred. The Nazis were lax in taking their military tanks to the local car wash. Consequently, they were typically covered in mud, and sticky bombs do not stick to wet and muddy surfaces.

The other problem was a bit more serious. Between the time of removing the pin (and exposing the sticky grenade) and tossing the grenade, the grenade would often get stuck to the person throwing it! And with only a five-second fuse, Private Klutz had little time to get unstuck before the thing explo …

Needless to say, the sticky bomb was not the most popular item in the British artillery.

I am reminded of an old playground taunt. Kids are throwing verbal jabs at each other, and when one of the kids has had enough (or runs out of good retorts), he says:

“I am rubber, you are glue;
Your words bounce off me and stick to you.”

There’s some truth in that childish chant that we need to remember as adults. It’s in our human nature—our sinful human nature—to lift ourselves up by putting others down. It may not be as obvious as an insult, but gossip and saying things about others we wouldn’t say to their faces are common behaviors among adults. And it’s just as bad among church members! People who would deny ever sharing something as gossip will couch it in terms of a prayer request.

“We need to pray for her.”

“Oh? Why?

“Haven’t you heard? She is ….” —and bam, we’ve painted a spiritual coating on gossip.

Insults and comments about others are a subtle way of lifting ourselves up—but we’re really not lifting ourselves up. In the eyes of others, we’re lowering ourselves. They see us as judgmental or vindictive. They hear unkind remarks and see us as unkind people.

I’ve learned this the hard way. I used to joke that sarcasm was my spiritual gift. My remark about someone might get a laugh or two, but it’s also viewed as demeaning. Hurtful. Unchristlike. And to brush it off with a quick “I was only kidding,” does not remove the harm.

And such words revealed my inner character.

“A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:35-36).

A sticky bomb of words is dangerous because it sticks to me.

I’ve chosen a different path.

“No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

We think of foul language in terms of the words that get our mouths washed out with soap, but in the ears of Christ, those words that do not build others up are just as foul. Words that do not extend grace are equally foul.

No more sticky bombs of poorly chosen words. If something’s going to stick to me, let it be words of encouragement and grace.

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