The other morning, I got my coffee and went out on my screened in porch to enjoy the view of the lake. As I opened the patio door, I noticed that the smell of firewood was heavy in the air and the lake and my surroundings were wrapped in a blanket of smoke. It was such a surprise! As a matter of fact, the smoke was so thick that it was difficult for me to breath without feeling like I was wheezing. I had to go back inside to finish my coffee.
This smoky haze hung around for days and is from deliberately set fires in the forest several hundred miles away. I’m trying not to let it stop me from going outdoors, but the more I’m out in it, the worse I feel. It’s to the point I have a constant scratchy throat and I’m coughing. It’s amazing that a fire so far away can have such far reaching consequences.
Huge fires can be the result of tiny sparks or lighted matches landing on something dry. It starts out small and if not caught in time can spread into something so big that it cannot be put out – only contained. As it spreads it sends harmful smoke and debris into the air for human and animal life to breathe in.
There is another kind of fire that is dangerous to mankind. The human tongue is but a small part of the body, but it too can spark and cause a fire to start. That fire is caused by our thoughts, beliefs and emotions which spread hate, misunderstanding, envy and the list goes on. When we use the tongue to hurt others or say untruths or bad things we are starting or spreading the flames. Depending on how often what we say is repeated by or to others, it can spread its flames outward and catch others on fire with the same bad attitude or hatred or jealousy – whatever is negative and hurtful – to burn and hurt others as it grows out of control.
It’s unfortunate but the true that the good and edifying things said are rarely passed around like something that is bad, untrue or negative. While it’s hard to stop a fire once it’s started, there are things we can do to stop it from spreading. The most obvious is to not repeat what was said or done, but we can also walk away from the person who is repeating or saying bad things and let them know we aren’t interested in hearing it and tell them know you do not want to be party to spreading the fire even by listening to it. Standing up for what is good, honest and right can pour its healing waters over the fire. If enough people would do that, it would cause a steady rainfall that would keep things moist with goodness and caring so a fire is not able to start.
Our tongues have the power to hurt or heal, kill or bring life and to show love or spread hate. The scary thing is that it just takes one word to spark a fire or to bring love and healing. That a great deal of power that the Lord has given us. As I look at what is going on in the world today, I feel that God must look on us sadly shaking His head. What He had intended to be used for good and to edify is being abused and misused. There are consequences – not just earthly ones, but eternal ones. Our words are not just here and gone, but ripple out into eternity. They reveal what’s in our hearts and something we will have stand before the Lord and account for or explain one day.
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:5-6