Setting Forest Fires With Our Tongues

James 3:3-6 (NIV)
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
The tongue is so small, yet so powerful.  James gives three examples of something small having a huge impact:
  • A horse’s bit
  • A ship’s rudder
  • A forest fire’s igniter

Two of these examples are about control.  A small piece of metal controls a large animal.  A relatively small piece of wood could control a large sailing vessel.  You can tell a horse where to go by pulling on the reins with such a small bit.  You can direct a ship by turning the rudder one way or another.  In much the same way, the tongue, though small, can make a profound impact on the direction of a man or woman.

The third example demonstrates the dangerous power of the tongue.  Every year we hear of wildfires in the western United States and Canada.  These huge forest fires do so much damage and cover tens of thousands of square miles.  Yet they are started by something much smaller.  Something that may seem inconsequential.  James is saying that though the tongue may seem small and inconsequential, it is capable of devastating damage.
In fact, James says, the tongue is a fire.  It is a “world of evil” and “is set on fire by hell” itself (verse 6, NIV).  You may not think of your tongue as something so powerful, but it truly is a powerful force.  Unless we learn to control our tongues, we will not only be controlled by what we say, but we may be unknowingly setting forest fires of lies, gossip and belittling speech everywhere we go.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, how I need Your forgiveness for the things I’ve said.  I need to keep a tighter rein on my tongue.  I have said things that are not pleasing to You and have said things that have hurt others.  Help me to control my tongue today instead of being controlled by it.  Amen.

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