by Jim Van Yperen
No doubt you are watching with alarm, as I am, the daily images of wild fires in the American West. I heard one commentator wonder at how much devastation resulted from "just one small spark!" She was not the first to say-so.
“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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5)
A wild fire is nearly impossible to control, but the affects the fire leaves behind are easy to see--in burned out homes, and scorched earth stripped of all life. James tells us that words, too, are hard to control. While their marks may be less visible, their result is no less damaging—to others and ourselves. For James, the source of evil speaking is sin, and a heart darkened by disordered desire and pride. We want something so we lie and cheat. We boast to lift ourselves up, while putting others down. We want to be right and prove the other wrong. We blame others to excuse ourselves. Jesus said that a person speaks, "out of the overflow of his heart."
As I pray for rain and relief to quench wild fires out West, I think about the fires my words have set, and ask God to change my heart.