We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting the entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. [James 3:3-6 (NLT)]
Indeed, the tongue can be a “small thing that makes grand speeches.” Anyone who ever heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, John F. Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”, or Billy Graham preach knows that tongues can inspire and teach, praise and bless, comfort and pray. Speech, while extremely powerful, can also be incredibly dangerous.
James compares the tongue to a “flame of fire.” Have you even seen television coverage of a forest fire? It’s frightening how one camper’s poorly dowsed fire or a careless hiker’s cigarette can wreak such devastation. Once the fire gets started, it’s nearly impossible to control and its damage can’t be undone. If the wind picks up, the destruction can be enormous. Last year flames came within a few blocks of my son’s house and the barren hillside following the fire was a constant reminder of how close they came to losing their home.
Our words can be as dangerous as a spark in a dry forest. They cannot be taken back once spoken and the damage can be horrendous. Bragging, gossip, exaggeration, flattery, lying, disparagement, and manipulation with our words are all examples of an untamed tongue. Before speaking, we should ask ourselves, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” If in doubt, we should say nothing. Just as a strong wind will fan the fire’s flames, anger can turn a few imprudent words into a raging inferno. Homes and lives can truly be destroyed by the heat of angry words.
Yesterday’s message included Kurt Kaiser’s words “It only takes a spark to get a fire going” in reference to love. It’s important to remember that it only takes a spark from an untamed tongue to get another kind of fire going!
How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. [Marcus Aurelius]