Last month, I was informed that every once in a while one of our pastors at the church in Norton, KS is asked to write a short devotion to be printed in the local paper here. It was apparently our turn, so the other pastors decided that it was my turn. So here is the article that I wrote.
I read the other day about a Romanian teenager who torched his new car because he was angry after failing his driving test. Adrian Mocsani, 17, had been given the Volkswagen Polo by his family as a birthday present. But he was so disappointed at failing his test that he poured gasoline on the car and set it on fire in his front yard. He told police officials, “When I cam home I thought I saw the car laughing at me. So I put gas on it and lit it up. Who needs it anyways?”
My immediate thought was that this kid doesn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed- would you agree? I for one would love to get a new car for my birthday (are you reading this Mom and Dad?), and if I did, torching my car not be on my list of ‘things to do’. But before we judge this pyromaniac pubescent too harshly, we should consider for a moment whether or not there are parallels between his life and ours. In order to do that, let’s read a passage written by James, the brother of Jesus:
The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 NIV)
James doesn’t mess around here. He is drawing a perfect analogy between the damage we do with our tongue and the destructive force of fire. Basically, he is warning us to keep a holy fire extinguisher very nearby, because at any moment hell itself might strike a match that wreaks serious harm on ourselves and others. You know who really wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed? The person who wrote that ridiculous ‘sticks and stones’ thing. Words can and do hurt, and our tongues can light up our lives faster then you can say ‘stop-drop-and roll’!
God has given us beautiful gifts called relationships. Yet like our Romanian friend, we oftentimes fail and feel like were being laughed at. So what do we do? Torch them! Not literally of course. But we burn down folks with little jabs of sarcasm, raised voices, gossip, insincere praise, and even silence. So what is that holy fire extinguisher? Well, it starts with self-control. Here is what Solomon said:
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Proverbs 17:28 NIV)
It’s nothing more than the age old advice to think before you speak, especially when you are angry! It’s always a good idea to consider how your words will affect people. After self-control comes examination of your motives. Ask yourself, why am I about to share this information? Is it helpful or hurtful? What if God held me accountable for what I’m talking about? So next time you are about to turn into a flame thrower, think of our car burning compatriot, and when you do...ask yourself if there’s any possibility that you’re related.