The Destroying Fire
Fire is a powerful thing. ”It only takes a spark to get a fire going”, says the song Pass It On and yes, that fire can warm all those around but fire can also destroy. Its uncontrolled spreading reaches out so that even upon death the path of destruction is still evident. Take for example the fire of gossip.
There is a Yiddish folk story of a man that told many malicious untruths about the local Rabbi. He began however to feel remorse and begged the rabbi to forgive him. The Rabbi after much thought told the man to ”Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air and then come back to see him.” So the gossip spreader went home, got two pillows and a knife and hurried to the square. He cut the pillows open, waved them in the air, and watched as the feathers lifted and floated covering the earth and then spreading their mess further and further. The man returned to the Rabbi. ”I did just what you said, Rabbi,” the man announced! Good! The Rabbi smiled and said, ”Now to realize how much harm is greatly done by gossip, go back to the square”¦” ”And?” interrupted the man. ”And collect all your feathers.”
It is impossible to catch words once said just like feathers in the wind. The impact that words can have will spread quickly so it is very important to think carefully before they’re said aloud. They may not have an immediate impact and sometimes just like a destructive fire the delay of destroying words leave behind a devastating wake of barren land that may never recover.
I have never been to Australia but I have read about a horrible tree that the natives there call the stinging tree or the Gympie-Gympie.Â The nettles of the tree have a sting or prick that in the beginning doesn’t seem like much but within a few minutes the poor victim is in agony. Even months later suffering can continue when water touches the wound. Stories abound of horses who were inadvertently stung as they passed the plants that went mad and threw themselves from cliffs. The stinging tree however spreads its fiery pain only from its fixed position where it grows but the tongue that spreads its fire deposits its sting wherever it wanders creating a lifetime of pain with its reflected and infected wound. Death will end both the stinging tongue and the stinging tree but the damage they both bring will continue to live on with its victims.
It is clear that we must control our speech and use it for the good of others and not destruction through our own perceived selfish desires. Our temptation to speak in a harsh manner, critically, or unkindly should be related to the Gympie-Gympie and the spread of its fire that can last for years. As our focus verse this week points out the uncontrolled tongue can do a great amount of damage. The tongue can be used as a weapon of destruction or it can be used for the goodness of all.
Words just like fire can spread destruction and once that spark ignites no one can stop the results of past spoken words. We’reÂ advised to choose our words guardedly and to remember our words are carefully recorded as Matthew 12:36 ”“ 37 reminds us. The words we speak hold power, they can hurt and they can heal. We must be careful that when we ignite a spark it is a spark that will spread goodness to all of the world.
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. James 3:15 (NLT)
The Reviving Fire
It is clear that the power of words must be considered before speaking yet it is also important to understand that goodness can result from our words as well. Sometimes fire can be a good thing. For the spark of words in a controlled fire can stimulate the delicate germination of desirable behavior renewing God’s people. This is much like the controlled fires that regenerate forests due to the necessary stimulation of seeds that require heat from fire to open up the cones to disperse seeds. These types of controlled fires improve the health of the forest and help reduce large out of control wildfires. But controlled fires must be used only under right conditions and at appropriate sites much like the revival fire of words.
When sharing the words of God do so in a loving way using caution and determining how they reflect back to Christ and the goodness of God. It is important that control be placed on all words spoken aloud taking into consideration the set position of those that will hear the words. This requires you to be more diligent when speaking, understanding that your words and how they’re spoken reflect your character which ultimately reflects your relationship with Christ.
A U.S. Lutheran bishop tells of visiting a parish church in California and finding a stirring red and orange banner on the wall, ”Come Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!” The printed declared words were below a picture of a fire burning. The bishop was also interested in the sign directly underneath the banner which read and pointed out the location for the ”Fire Extinguisher.” You must be careful when considering a fire of spiritual renewal that the words spoken will not want or need the aid of a fire extinguisher. Your words should always revive with the spirit of Christ and sometimes words are not needed at all for our own gentle character should speak for itself. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, ”Preach the gospel, use words only if necessary.”
A spark of words can set a fire. This fire can be for destruction or it can be for revival. In both instances you must be careful of not only the words but how they’reÂ used. You are greatly challenged by the scripture to weigh your words carefully. It is important to be utterly convicted in knowing that words like fire can destroy or revive others. The power you hold with the small weapon of the tongue should both motivate you and comfort you in knowing that you can do great things with words.Â There are approximately 800,000Â words in the English language. 300,000 of these are technical terms. The average person knows 10,000 words and uses 5,000 in everyday speech. With so many choices choose your numbered words carefully to revive people not to destroy them.
Love in Christ,
A wound from a tongue is worse than a wound from a sword; for the latter affects only the body, the former the spirit.
Pythagoras – Greek philosopher and mathematician
Credits BURDON, A. (2009, June 16). Gympie Gympie: Once stung, never forgotten. Retrieved from The Australian Geographic: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2009/06/gympie-gympie-once-stung,-never-forgotten/ One World. (1982, May). One World.
What are your thoughts? Join Us in Discussion
Have you been the victim of ill-chosen words? Have you seen the devastation that wrongly chosen fiery words can set blaze to? Are you motivated to use words to set a spark of revival to the earth? Join us in discussion on setting the world on fire with words of goodness not destruction.