Occupy Wall Street. Gay rights. Marijuana legalization. Israeli-Palestinian unrest. Social issues and discontent abound, perhaps not entirely unlike that of the sixties. As social issues raged at that time, there was a push for public awareness on many fronts. One of them was to educate Americans in the area of forest fires. Smokey the Bear was born in the mid-forties, but as a child of the 70’s, I can vividly recall that familiar furry face, pleading with me to do my part in keeping our forests safe. Every commercial ended with Smokey’s famous line, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
According to statistics reported on About.com, wildfires consume over 4 million acres of American terrain a year. Over 100,000 fires break out annually, with 9 out of 10 of those fires beginning with only a touch of carelessness. Discarded cigarette ashes, fireworks shootings, ditched barbecue coals and similar actions comprise most of the ways in which vast, disastrous fires start. No wonder that James had likened the devastating effects of cruel words spoken into our lives to the potential destruction that can occur through spreading wildfire.
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3:5-6
I was five when this spark was lit, when I began to serve as a target for bullies on the school playground. We’re all kids once. Sticks and stones, right? Every kid’s been bullied at some point – helps them to toughen up, right? Doesn’t sound like a big deal. Right?
As innocent children, the words we receive into our spirits are high-powered ammunition, fully loaded. We don’t understand the weight of words. As they seep into our spirits, they filter down to the core. This is why James says that our words have the ability to “corrupt the whole person, setting the course of his life on fire.” What happens in a forest fire? A vast amount of land is devoured in a very short period of time. It devastates and destroys to a full degree. But as children of God, we have this hope and mandate:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.” – Isaiah 54:17
We often pray the first part of this verse out loud. But look at the statement, that ‘no weapon formed against you shall prosper’ within its context. The Lord tells us that words are weapons, and these weapons are wielded in the spirit realm. If you serve the Lord, if you really live for Him, your heritage is to cast down evil words spoken over you.
Look what it says just before verse 17. Isaiah prophesies the outcome of God’s children. Gems indeed.
“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.” – Isaiah 54:11-14
Guard you lips. Guard your heart. Be one to speak life, and put an end to those raging forest fires.