Have You Ever Started a Forest Fire?
OF COURSE NOT, you say. But wait! Perhaps you have. Listen to the words of the disciple James: “The tongue is a little member and yet makes great brags. Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire!”—James 3:5.
The tongue is a vital organ of speech, but how it has been misused! People use the tongue to lie and slander. With it they harshly criticize others, destroy their reputations, and swindle them. Rabble-rousers use the tongue to foment revolution. Adolf Hitler used his to mobilize a nation for war—a ‘forest fire’ indeed!
Even those with good motives can cause little ‘forest fires.’ Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you could unsay it? If so, you understand what James meant when he said: “The tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed.”—James 3:8.
Nevertheless, we can try to use our tongue for good. Like the psalmist, we can resolutely say: “I will guard my ways to keep from sinning with my tongue.” (Psalm 39:1) Rather than harshly criticize others, we can try to build them up. Rather than slander people, we can speak well of them. Rather than defraud and deceive, we can speak the truth and instruct. When motivated by a good heart, the tongue can speak wonderful words of healing. Jesus used his tongue in a marvelous way to teach mankind about salvation.
Truly, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) Is your tongue death-dealing or life-giving? Does it start ‘forest fires’ or put them out? The psalmist prayed to God: “May my tongue sing forth your saying, for all your commandments are righteousness.” (Psalm 119:172) If we cultivate the psalmist’s attitude, we too will use our tongue for good.
[Picture Credit Line on page 32]
U.S. Forest Service photo