When I was a young boy between 6 and 11 years of age, our family lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Our subdivision was a boys dream. All of the homes were on 1/2 acre lots surrounding a small private lake. My friends and I would ride around the neighborhood on our bikes, fish in the lake and play together. Looking back on it, it was heaven on earth.
Over time we decided that we needed to have a club. Not just any club but a boys club. I don’t remember the name of our club but it was like the “He Man Woman Haters Club” the Little Rascals had. (I probably should not let my wife know about it.)
We set up our club at the edge of a field filled with tall grass on the outside edge of the subdivision. We did not have any money to buy things to build the clubhouse so we looked for things we found at our houses for the job. We took old boxes, pieces of wood, and anything else we could find to create our clubhouse. When we finished it, it was not pretty, but we were proud of it.
It was hot and dry in Oklahoma that summer. The wind moving across the plains combined with the hot sun overhead helped to keep things dry even a couple of hours after a heavy rain. It was nothing to have huge cracks in our yard during this time of year. I once tried to fill up one of those cracks with the water hose but it did not work.
One day while in our clubhouse one of us managed to get some matches.
I know what you are thinking, “This can’t be good.” I have to agree with you.
I don’t know who got the matches or where they came from. I asked my younger brother about it just this week but he claimed to have no memory of it. That sounds convenient to me!
We started playing with the matches in our clubhouse, burning anything we could find that would burn. Before long we quickly had a fire that we could not control. It burned our clubhouse and was now burning the edge of the field. We tried desperately to get it put out but could not do it.
Someone called the fire department and they showed up to put out our fire. We were scared to death. We were sure we could control it once it got to burning but we were wrong.
The Bible uses the word “fire” in multiple contexts. There is the fire of hell, the fire of refining, and the fire of the tongue. James speaks of the tongue as a destructive fire. This sounds similar to my fire. “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!” James 3:5
Careless words can create a fire destroying everything in it’s path. What appears to be small at the beginning can quickly get out of control. This happens far too often and we have all experienced the effects of it.
In Psalm 19:14 David offers a prayer to God regarding his tongue the words that come out of his mouth. It is a prayer we can all pray. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
We don’t have go around setting fires.
Our words can heal.
Our words can offer grace and forgiveness.
Our words can can be acceptable in God’s sight.
And it all started with a single match.