Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
- from James 3:5

A forest fire rages with the white-hot fury of a thousand suns, consuming everything in its path. Trees. Grasslands. Brush. Animals flee the advance of the fire as their homes burst into flames. Firefighters battle the blaze but are beaten back. Smoke fills the sky.

And it all started with a spark.

James compares our tongues to that small spark. One word spoken unwisely or with bitterness or cruelty can start a nearly unstoppable sequence of events. Relationships can go up in flames. Partnerships can dissolve. The landscape of a life can be permanently altered.

Yet, it’s so easy to treat our words flippantly. We play catch with live grenades every day. We launch artillery shells at our friends in play. We drive around with nuclear warheads in our laptop bags. We have tremendous power at our fingertips. A word, a text, an email, a social media post … destructive capabilities.

James doesn’t nudge us to take vows of uncommunicative silence. Our ability to speak and write and text makes possible intimate connections to other people and to God. We shouldn’t abandon this power, but we should use it wisely.

Fire in the fireplace can give warmth to the house. Fire in a grill can feed a family. Fire in a lamp can give light to a community. But we must, must, must prevent forest fires.

What steps can you take to faithfully steward the sparks you create with your words? What does responsible speaking look like for you?

1 Comment

A lot of my speech can be cloaked as necessary communication when it's nothing more than judgemental, unnecessary or unkind. In my line of work I have to assess many things; sometimes I cross the line from objective assessment to judgemental thoughts which I have compounded by speaking it with a veil of concern. I do have a concern, but I could stop and leave the judgement off. I am really trying to be someone who is slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to anger. Many of the assumptions I have are so incorrect if I stop and truly slow down to really empathize instead of making quick judgements.

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