trusted online casino malaysia
Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
Rooted in Christ

It Only Takes a Spark

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire” (James 3:5–6). 

2020 was a record-setting year for wildfires in the state of California. Almost 10,000 fires burned over four million acres of land, destroying homes and structures to the tune of ten billion dollars in property damage. A Cal Fire website claims that “approximately 95% of all wildfires in California are caused by human activity.” This generated the “One Less Spark - One Less Wildfire” campaign, instructing people in how to prevent wildfires. 

James expresses the same concern when it comes to the tongue, with potentially far more serious implications. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:5–6). 

Why is the tongue considered an incendiary device? James makes sure we understand the danger at our disposal. He describes the tongue as “a fire, a world of unrighteousness” and “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8), stoked by nothing less than the fires of Gehenna. The words we speak can convey heaven or hell. Paul lays out a user's manual for the tongue, along with warnings similar to James: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:29–32).

We’ve noted that the book of James is New Testament wisdom literature and that it holds many parallels to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. There our Lord Jesus also connects our words with the fire of hell. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:22). 

What we see in the tongue (our tongue) is the potential for widespread destruction, more in keeping with the kingdom of the evil one than the kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace we belong to and represent. James warns us that a careless word can be the spark to great devastation, like a forest can be decimated by the conflagration created by an errant ember. 

James says this fire-starter resides in each of us and can affect the whole body, both individually and the community of which we are a part. James’ warning is akin to that of the writer of Hebrews: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). 

1. What warning does James issue for our words?

2. What would be part of a tongue-safety course?

“May the words of my mouth be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Faith in the Faith: Using the Apostles’ Creed as an Outline for Discipleship - A Live Biweekly Online Course with Stan Gale. Wednesdays, April 20 – June 29, 3pm – 4pm. Click here for more information.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

Subscribe to Ailbe Newsletters

Sign up to receive our email newsletters and read columns about revival, renewal, and awakening built upon prayer, sharing, and mutual edification.