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 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
Wildfire! It’s a frightening word in the Southwest before the summer rains start. One Sunday afternoon my husband and I watched a small fire to the south of our home, causing smoke in the mountains. It was miles away but the following Sunday we were staying with friends– evacuated from our home just four days after the fire started.
For twenty-four hours we had no idea if our home was gone, damaged, or still standing. We knew several homes had been destroyed a few miles west of us. Emergency shelters filled with evacuees and pets while firefighters battled high winds with tinder dry conditions. The fire raged, threatening the city limits where we stayed.
Whatever started the massive fire was small in the beginning. It might have been coals from a campfire, a cigarette tossed into the brush, or an intentional act. It’s the same with our speech. A careless word can ruin a reputation in a short time.
I’ve been the victim of such careless gossip and it hurts. Sometimes gossip is piously mentioned by couching it as a “prayer request.” Other times we do it to ourselves. Before you know it, a reputation is ruined. A life is set on fire.
A fire is easy to start, but hard to put out once it has fuel. It’s the same once we have a reputation as a gossip, a liar, or a big talker. It took firefighters nine days to get any amount of containment, but it had already destroyed thousands of acres of beautiful mountain woodlands, over fifty homes, and several businesses. Our favorite hiking places won’t recover for years but by God’s grace, our home and neighborhood were safe. Lives were changed dramatically because of the fire. Some will never be the same.
Before you make that sarcastic comment about someone, keep truth as your focus and your tongue in check. Think about the wildfire. Don’t start a fire of ruin for yourself and others.
Laurinda Wallace lives in the beautiful high desert of southeast Arizona with her husband David. Besides being the office manager for her church, she is a freelance writer and has published numerous magazine articles and devotionals. She is currently working on a mystery series set in her hometown area of Western New York. Laurinda and her husband have two grown daughters and twin grandsons, who are amazing miracles of God’s grace.
Read Laurinda’s devotions.