The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
On November 23, 2016, two teens, one fifteen and one seventeen, walked down the Chimney Tops hiking trail in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lighting matches and tossing them off the side of the trail as they went. One or more of these matches started a wildfire that burned for roughly three weeks in and around the national park and Gatlinburg areas. It burned 17,904 acres, destroyed 2,500 structures, and caused about $500 million in damage. Worst of all, it sent 191 people to the hospital and killed 14 more. It all started with a tiny little fire on the end of a matchstick. (Both teenagers have now been charged with aggravated arson.)
It is hard to imagine what these teens were thinking tossing lit matches into a wooded area. How could they not realize that even such a small fire could be so dangerous!? But many of us display the same cavalier attitude in the things we say. We think, "I probably shouldn't say this..." but we just can't help ourselves; so we light the match and toss the comment over our shoulder as we walk away. We never stop to think about how much damage it could do. We slander, gossip, and accuse people, and we think it's no big deal. But James tells us that the tongue is like a fire. Your words can burn with all the destructive force of a wildfire, injuring and destroying anyone in their path. This is especially true of slander.
Did you know that the word for "Devil" in the New Testament actually means slanderer or accuser? Revelation 12:10 says he is, "the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night..." This fits perfectly with the story of Job from the Old Testament in which Satan appears before God to slander and accuse a righteous man. This is what the Devil spends his time doing, accusing and slandering God's people. So when you slander one of your brothers or sisters in Christ, you actually become the weapon in the enemy's hand that he uses you to attack God's people. You are doing the Devil's job for him! That is why Scripture takes such a firm stance against slander. James 4:11 says "do not slander one another." Titus 3:2 says we should "slander no one." Ephesians 4:31 counsels us to "get rid of all slander." And I Corinthians 6:10 even goes so far as to say that slanderers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Brothers and sisters, please be careful what you say. Don't be double-tongued. Don't praise God with the same mouth that you use to curse and slander His people. Instead be known for speaking encouragement, Scripture, and blessings (even when you are being cursed). Keep a tight rein on your tongue, and may we all be more like the righteous man in Proverbs 10:11 than we are like the worthless man in Proverbs 16:27.
Proverbs 16:27- "A worthless man's speech is like a scorching fire." Proverbs 10:11- "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life."