Each year, 100,000 wildfires destroy 4 to 5 million acres of forestland in the United States. A new research study shows that 84 percent of those wildfires are caused by humans through careless behaviors like arson, discarded cigarette butts, and abandoned campfires. Imagine the smallest spark destroying forests, animals, homes, and even causing human casualties. Similarly, have you noticed it takes just a few fiery words to cause harm?
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6) These words explain all the times our mouths get us into trouble, intentional or not. Jesus urges us to be careful with each word, declaring, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) James also says if a man can hold his tongue, he’s perfect and “able also to bridle his whole body.” (James 3:2) Does this mean words control our bodies? James explains in verses 3 and 4 that bits in the mouths of horses control the whole animal and small rudders guide an entire ship.
Little children say, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” According to Scripture, this little rhyme isn’t true at all. “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.” (Proverbs 19:11) If you believe words can’t overthrow a city, consider how Adolf Hitler’s passionate speeches helped him rise to power and what that power did to Germany. Conversely, think what one speech from Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished. Proverbs 10:20 says, “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver…”
Since words are so flammable, Scripture suggests using them sparingly. “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) In the forest, to prevent wildfires, we’re urged to be cautious and dig a pit for our campfire and build a barrier of rocks to contain it. We should be even more careful when using our words.