The forest fires that have engulfed so much of Australia in the last few weeks have certainly captivated our attention though we might be thousands of miles away on the other side of the globe. The intensity and scale of the outbreaks is like nothing Australia has seen before. Though we are used to seeing small fires breaking out here in ‘old’ South Wales, we cannot imagine what it must be like to be threatened by something so intense, and that, coupled with the extremely hot temperatures and smoke that hangs around in the atmosphere means that New South Wales, especially, doesn’t seem an attractive place to be even in the depths of our British winter. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones and their homes in recent weeks there. We think too of our friends David and Maureen in Bathurst, thankfully some distance from the worst of the threat.
Whatever the impact of ‘Climate Change’ might be, forest fires have been in existence for centuries, even since before Bible times. That must be so because one Bible writer refers to them, and uses them as an illustration to teach a most important truth. In Chapter three of his epistle, the Apostle James talks about fires in forests as he warns about the danger of how we use our tongues. After reminding us in verse 4 that huge ships can be directed by tiny rudders he goes on to say; “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity!”
The first twelve verses of James chapter 3 are verses that we should never go too long without reminding ourselves of. They begin by reminding us that one of the most difficult parts of Christian living is the use and control of our tongue. If we can crack that we are not far from perfection (v2)! How easy it is for us to be praising God one moment and gossiping about a fellow Christian the next (v9). As we begin a new year, and perhaps make resolutions to improve with God’s help, perhaps how we use our tongues is a really good place to start.
It should go without saying amongst Christians that we should not use our tongues for lying, gossiping, cursing or being overly critical of others. Sadly, however, the experience of many broken Christians and disrupted fellowships over the years, is that these things are far more common than they should be. Instead, Christians should use their tongues in a positive way, seeking to build others up. That will involve taking the time and making the effort to speak to others, greeting them warmly whenever we see them, showing genuine interest in their lives and situations by asking them questions, and seeking to build them up with a word of encouragement as fellow soldiers in the fight of faith and as we persevere together to reach the goal.
So why not start doing that next time you are in church?