The tongue has the power of life and death…Proverbs 18:21
Firefighters are describing conditions out west as a hectic situation on a scale they have not seen before. People are losing their lives, homes and businesses to forest fires.
Our speech, according to James, can be destructive like an uncontrolled fire. Scroll down a social media page and you can easily find the latest fire: emotionally charged political debates, the newest uproars and the biggest controversies. Online debates are becoming increasingly hostile, and we have to take this seriously. The metaphor of arsony is not an exaggeration, as we see in James’ letter:
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 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” (James 3:5-6).
James’ teaching is not just a warning, it is also a description of the wounds we experience on social media. How many wounds come from words that “pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18)? How many regrets come from words we have said? Rather than be contentious and harsh, through our speech (spoken and typed) we can clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12-13).
This does not mean we never confront error and contend for God’s truth. It does mean that our online conversations must “be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
To use a different metaphor, social media gives everyone a platform, and it’s hard to resist the opportunity. What will we do with our microphone (or keyboard)?