Scripture: James 3:1-12
Key verses: (9-10) 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
Reflection: The first twelve verses of James 3 are painted with metaphor: horse and bridle, boat and rudder, forest and fire, creatures of all kinds being tamed. Is this a hodgepodge of distinct metaphorical points? Or is James speaking to something bigger than random metaphorical nuggets of wisdom?
I used to teach elementary environmental education at YMCA Camp Cherokee. One thing we would talk about as we trudged through the woods of Kings Mountain State Park was fire. In the discussion of life cycles and soil nutrition, wild fires and controlled burns were an illustration I would regularly bring up. Why? Well, both involved destroying wooded areas with fire. One was controlled and beneficial, the other sporadic and harmful. The controlled burn is used to rid the forest floor of potential hazards and replenish the soil with nutrients. It is measured, intentional, and purposeful. We have seen in recent history the unintentional and immeasurable destruction wild fires can cause. Here, James uses forest and fire to illustrate a point. Our tongue is a small fire that burns the forest. If that small fire is unintentional and sporadic it can cause serious issues and destruction. However, if that small fire is used for a purpose to benefit the forest, then the outcome is a positive one.
Much like a fire can unintentionally destroy a forest or purposefully replenish its nutrients for growth, the words we use can do the same. We have the power to determine which fire we are to start. Our words can destroy. Our words can enrich. We have the choice.
Prayer: Holy One, you spoke the world into existence and with your Word brought redemption to your people. Words are powerful. They have calmed seas and calmed hearts. They have rescued a nation from bondage and set captives free. May our words direct others to you, so that all will know the blessings of being made in your likeness. In the name of Jesus Christ, Word made flesh. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].