Last Saturday, two wildfires burned 34 structures and more than 16,000 acres in Midland County where I live. Hundreds of additional homes were threatened and all their residents evacuated. At the height of the blaze, the fire was moving at a rate of thirty yards every second.
What caused such devastation? One fire is believed to have been started by sparks caused by scraps of metal falling out of a truck and hitting the road. The other? A cigarette tossed from a car.
Small things really. But this carelessness destroyed property, livelihoods, and forced hundreds of people from their homes. These simple, tiny sparks brought much heartache.
We can shake our heads at the unnecessary pain caused by thoughtless actions. But don’t we regularly do the same thing with our tongues. I know that I do. Sharp words spoken with no thought given to the hearers. Selfishness recklessly voiced. Biting words that cut to the quick and bruise gentle hearts.
James eloquently painted a picture of the power of our tongues.
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 your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6, NLT
Mankind has tamed many a wild animal, but the tongue cannot be tamed. The tongue – even one that praises God – still pours out bitter water that wounds and crushes. So what must we do? How does a Christian like me – who sometimes harms, but wants to heal – respond to the reality of her tongue? In chapter four, James gives us encouragement and advice for turning from our sin and turning to God:
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:7-10, NLT
Have you wounded someone and need to make it right? God can restore both your relationship with that person and with Him!