Our house has two smoke detectors in it – one in the kitchen and one in the hallway near the bedrooms. Kevin and I were performing our semi-annual battery check and could not tell if the smoke detector in the kitchen was malfunctioning or if the batteries were dying. So we did what any logical, well-educated couple would do. We set a fire.
Okay, so it was small fire. First we held the smoke detector directly over a candle in the living room to see if that smoke would set it off. No luck. So Kevin picked up a napkin that was left on the table and put it in the flame. It puffed black smoke everywhere and was immediately overwhelmed by the flame. Kevin dashed into the kitchen with the napkin to toss it into the sink while ashes of burnt napkin drifted into the living room carpet.
Whoops. Fires can be a warming presence; candles add a level of intimacy and coziness to a home. Fire pits in the backyard provide great times of fellowships and marshmallow roasting. But an unkept fire, and fire haphazardly created in the wrong time – can get out of hand quickly.
That’s exactly why James uses a fire to explain how dangerous our words can be when unguarded.
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.
James emphatically describes how dangerous our words can be. As followers of Christ, we are called to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Controlling our words first involves controlling our thought life. Let’s pray together today that the Holy Spirit will reveal patterns of jealousy, bitterness, and mean-spiritedness in our thoughts so that we can repent and not sin further with our words.
What Scriptures do you use to keep your tongue under control? I’d love to hear from you on twitter at @R_Adelsberger.