The picture above is what most people in the Denver Metro area witnessed yesterday evening. Seeing the plume of smoke was quite surreal. It was hard to imagine that a forest fire was responsible for this and not some volcano hiding behind the mountains. As of this afternoon, the fire was 0% contained. High winds also made the situation worse since air support was unable to lend a hand until today. In fact, about 3,000 acres went ablaze in a matter of hours during yesterday’s high winds. So far, at least 2 people have died, 16 structures torched, 4,500 acres of forest have burned, 900 homes have been evacuated, and another 6,500 have been warned.
It’s quite hard to grasp the power of nature until it is growling on your doorstep. The power of a forest fire is simply astonishing. When we keep this situation in mind, it makes the words of James 3:5b-6 resound like never before:
“…See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”
James is specifically speaking to teachers here, but there is application for all of us. Far too often we start small fires when we let our words hurt others. If we are not careful, the fires we start can quickly become uncontrollable when the winds of gossip, lies, anger, and hate come blowing through. The next thing we know, our words have “defiled our bodies,” and “set our lives on fire.” There is no way to completely heal the damage we cause when we allow our tongues to go free.
Forest fires are bad enough. We don’t need any “family fires,” “congregational fires,” “gossip fires,” or fires of any kind for that matter. Too many people have been driven away from the Lord because of nasty, harsh, and hurtful words. We must be more careful with the words we speak. Not only can it jeopardize others’ salvation, but our own as well.