Only YOU can prevent forest fires! Remember this slogan, made popular by Smokey the Bear? This ad campaign was initiated by the United Staes Forest Service in 1944 as a means to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires. In 2001, the message was updated to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” It’s been estimated that Smokey Bear and his wise words are recognized by 95% of adults and 77% of children in the United States!
Now if only the same percentages of individuals heeded the counsel found in God’s Word. James 3:5 tells us that “the tongue is a little member (of the body) and boasts great things. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles.” Once a spark begins to smolder, it doesn’t take long for it to develop into a raging blaze. Our conversations and comments can spread wildly out of control, causing a wildfire of warring, injurious words. It can set us on a course of destruction, leaving behind a trail of hurt and desolation.
Yet, the same fire that possesses the ability to maim can be the warmth we seek when chilled to the bone. Under different circumstances, its intensity and constancy can be a balm which restores and refreshes our weary souls. Our speech carries the same powerful energy!
This comparison between our tongues and a fire is a powerful reminder that our excuses for loose lips, critical comments and false facts will fall flat before an Omniscient and Omnipresent God. Developing restraint with what we say depends on developing the recognition for why we say it. Next time you are tempted to speak inappropriately, remember that you can prevent the outcome from developing into a disaster! Check your motives, pray and ask God to help you use your speech for sowing a peaceful presence instead.