Are you up for a challenge? See if you can solve this riddle…
“I am more deadly than the screaming shell from the Howitzer. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind… I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent…” (Source: Morgan Blake, as cited in Faith That Works by George Sweeting, pg 76-77.)
Who am I? (Hint: Contrary to the title of this article, the answer is NOT fire.)
Think for a minute before you read on…do you know it yet? If not, here’s another hint for you. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
The answer to the riddle is: “Gossip.”
By now you likely know that the familiar old sticks-and-stones adage may be one of the biggest lies ever introduced into the English-speaking world. Words can hurt, and words can even destroy. That’s why the Bible compares our tongues to a spark capable of immeasurable destruction.
And do you know how many forest fires begin with a single ember from a small campfire? The tongue is a blazing fire seeking to ignite an entire world of vices. The tongue is unique among all parts of the body because it is capable of corrupting the whole body. If that were not enough, it ignites and consumes the course of creation with a fuel that originates in hell itself (James 3:5-6, The Voice).
Our tongues have the capability of destroying much more than a raging forest fire. In fact, your mouth may be holding a spark that could rampage through your world even as you are reading this. Many people engage in this devastating activity without even knowing it! So to help us get a handle on how our tongues can be fueled by hell itself, here is a fantastic definition:
The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it. (Source: gotquestions.org)
In other words, if you are sharing negative information about people behind their back with others who aren’t a part of the problem or the solution, then you are gossiping…period.
And if you are gossiping, then you are starting a fire in your life that may seem like an innocent spark, but trust me, in a flash you may be wreaking irreversible damage to your reputation, your relationships and to the lives of many of those around you.
Just consider the damage one small spark of real fire can do.
In Chicago, on October 8, 1871, it was one small spark in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn that set the surrounding hay on fire, which then spread to the barn and its surrounding buildings. And before it was over, that one spark, supposedly from one cow kicking over a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, burned 17,500 buildings. Three hundred people burned to death, 125,000 people became homeless and in 1871, they estimated the damage at $400 million—from one spark.
But here’s an interesting twist to the story. Did you know that the same location where the Great Chicago Fire started in 1871—Mrs. O’Leary’s barn—is now the headquarters of the Chicago Fire Department? That same spot that ignited such dramatic, devastating destruction almost 150 years ago is now the place that orchestrates the battles against such flames.
Shouldn’t it be the same with us? If we allow God to speak through us, rather than gossip, our tongues can be a life-giving and even life-saving instrument used for THE Cause of Christ. So as the New Year unfolds before us, let’s follow the example of the man after God’s own heart who took seriously his responsibility to control his tongue and cease his gossip:
Guard my mouth, O Eternal One; control what I say. Keep a careful watch on every word I speak (Psalm 141:3, The Voice).
May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart meet with Your gracious approval, O Eternal, my Rock, O Eternal, my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
It literally takes the power of God through your relationship with Jesus Christ to keep the sparks under control. Wake up each day with a renewed determination to quench the fire of gossip, and remember to ask the Holy Spirit to control your speech so that it pleases the Lord.
If we truly have sparks on our tongue, then let’s use them to set the world on fire for Christ!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Never underestimate the power you hold in your speech to ruin relationships and even destroy lives. Conversely, never forget the opportunity you have to share the good news of Jesus Christ, which can restore relationships and bring eternal life.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Father, thank You for warning us about the power we have to wreak havoc on the world. Guard our mouths and help our speech be pleasing to You.
Read: Ephesians 4:29. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (NIV).
Get: “What does the Bible say about gossip?” Learn more about what the Bible has to say about gossip in this article from our friends at gotquestions.org.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Want to share this with your students? Copy and paste the following text message: “Do you have a spark on your tongue? Find out in this week’s devo”
Big Idea: The tongue is a dangerous part of our sin natures, but when we allow God to speak through us, we can influence the world for Christ!
Key Scripture: James 3:5-6
- When have you ever “set something on fire” in your life with your tongue?
- Have you ever been a victim of gossip? What did it feel like?
- In what ways can you use your speech to encourage people and share the gospel?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?