July 1, 2015 Ponder
Strong winds blew small sparks from one rooftop to the next until 29 homes were destroyed. It happened so quickly that the occupants had only minutes to escape. Firefighters were frustrated in their efforts to put a stop to the out-of-control situation.
James 3 describes the human tongue as a fire – a small part of the body that can set a forest on fire. Verse 8 says that no one can tame the tongue because it is a restless evil and full of poison. It cannot be trusted – it can say something positive one moment and the opposite the next.
As devastating as the loss of a burned-out home is, it is probably easier to rebuild a house than it is to repair the damage caused by an out-of-control tongue. Words can kill a relationship, destroy a marriage and damage trust to the point that it cannot be restored.
Words come so easily and at the time might seem like tiny sparks, but their potential impact is huge. The winds of gossip can take our words and quickly blow them in all directions. As they land on other people, their impact multiplies. They are like a fire out of control and their damage is nearly unstoppable.
As I reflect on the significance of July 4th in this country, I am impressed by how much was said with so few words in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Then I listen to the ongoing, seemingly endless political speeches of our day and admit to an element of skepticism on my part as I tune them out.
Perhaps the difference is that those earlier writings were small sparks whose impact continues today, whereas much of the recent rhetoric lacks very much spark at all. I long to hear someone outline a basic, common sense agenda that each of us could buy into and support.
All of this reminds me that I need to pay close attention to the words that flow out of my mouth and the non-verbal impact they have. Attitude and expression say a lot. I need to think before I speak and be sure that my words are based on accurate information, with a focus that is wholesome and uplifting rather than destructive.
Through the years, we have watched communities recover from fires as they rebuilt homes, replaced possessions and cherished life. We have also seen relationships destroyed by words that did damage beyond repair.
As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, let’s focus on positive words and uplifting attitudes. Independence is also about freedom to choose to control the tongue!
Pastor Bill Ehmann