A single wooden match weighs .15 grams.
It is so light, that its weight cannot even be felt. It produces a small spark and flame, that can easily be pinched out with our fingers. Nevertheless, when not respected, it can produce a monster that will destroy and even take human life.
In 2016 a single spark resulted in 14 lives lost and 10,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains to be engulfed in flames, including significant portions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. A place with several decades of investment and effort that so many of us have visited laid in waste. But, thanks to resilience placed in the human heart by God, rebuilding is happening.
James 3:6 tells us that “the tongue is a flame of fire.” It goes on to explain in descriptive detail that it can “set your whole life on fire.” Basically, James 3:3-10 sternly warns us to respect the tongue, for at its core it is a match. Today, James may have included our fingertips as we text and update our status.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. – Proverbs 18:21
Those who don’t respect it will reap the consequences.
But our words and ability to communicate have the power to bring life, healing, inspiration, and encouragement as well. Abraham Lincoln knew this at Gettysburg and Martin Luther King Jr. knew it as he stood on the steps of Lincoln’s Memorial 100 years later. We see it all the time in the movies… Gladiator, Braveheart, Remember the Titans, Rocky, and the list goes on. People want to be inspired, encouraged, and built up. God has given us a great gift in the power of the tongue to deliver His inspiration to those around us.
So when you look in your rearview mirror at yesterday, what do you see? Do you see a green landscape with thriving life, or do you see charred and scorched earth? Did you help point others to Christ in the stands you took or didn’t take, or did you unintentionally help in Satan’s conquest to polarize and divide? Jesus says people will know we are His disciples by how we love one another (see John 13:35).
For me, this is a sobering reflection, but thank God for grace and His ability to bring us back and restore what was destroyed.
Here’s the reality… “no one can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). On our own, there will be some good and definitely some bad, but only a growing relationship with God can shape consistent control and maturity in how we express ourselves on his His behalf.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:17-18
We are charged by God to fight the good fight, but our direction comes from God. We are not rouge fighters, but knights instead. Take a look at David, one of the world’s greatest warriors. Time after time, before he moved into any fight, he inquired of the Lord. Are you asking God for His wisdom and submitting to His direction? Are you open to whom and to what He wants you to speak? Are you mature enough to hold your tongue in meaningless banter?
More times than not, the best course is to be silent and wait on the Lord to give us His words. In the midst of our current world and polarizing back-and-forth bickering and grandstanding, I am reminded of a final quote from an old childhood movie War Games. The computer, called Joshua, after examining the futile game being played, says to the Professor: “A strange game. The only winning move is…. not to play.”
Here are the songs we’ll be singing this Sunday as we look more closely at James 3: