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Minor Irritations and Major Inflammations
by Marlo Wells
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Minor Irritations and Major Inflammations

5Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze! – James 3:5

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say, bounces off me and sticks to you. Remember these? Children’s rhymes that we would arm ourselves with in order to protect ourselves from the neighborhood or school playground bully. But despite the words of these simple sayings, something about the names or phrases directed towards us as children, sometimes took root and reverberates throughout an adult’s life.

Rejection is a horrid thing. But it is a part of life. Children go to school and there is an understood pecking order that despite our best parental interventions, it is just going to happen. It breaks our hearts for them, especially if it brings back memories of something we went through. We wonder what motivates a child to be so stinking mean. I have an answer for you: Adults.

Children’s antics are no longer limited to the playground. And according to the passage in James, they never have been. Our scope of vision would like to leave them there (at the playground) which would alleviate us of any responsibility to look at the areas of our lives where we are actively participating in such games.

Do you consider a forest fire a game? Ask someone who has lived through one or even a house fire for that matter, and I am sure that they would beg to differ with you. Yet that is precisely the point that James is striving to drive home here.

6And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man's nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna). – James 3:6

He was speaking to adults.

Remember Middle school and High school? There were, always, always, always cliques, and whether you purposely tried to be in one or not, you often found yourself labeled as belonging to one or the other. Male and female alike seem to have the ability to sharpen the skill of “cutting someone down”, and usually in the presence of a crowd.

Somehow or another, many times, this is not something that you find as adults, that people have outgrown. They are just better at it. That minor irritation has become a full blown inflammation.

People bully one another with intimidation at work. There are cliques in the office, water-cooler gossip, name calling and insinuations. As adults, pressures are greater, the term “going postal” has a very literal meaning, and the “adult” world has seemingly become a grown-up version of the playground. Only difference; bigger toys, a more extensive vocabulary, with years of experience under the belt of being that bully.

Guess what? It is not only in the world. It has been smoldering in our Churches for a very long time.

There is a problem if you have to worry about who you ask for prayer because it might end up being broadcast news. There is a problem if you feel like you have to put on a façade at Church because of what others might think. There is a problem if you have a knot in your stomach about being involved with your Church activities. There is a problem when Church ladies are arguing over whose cakes or cookies are better. There is a problem when you have to counsel those in the Youth group because of problems “in the youth group”.

How can the Church make a difference if it is no different?

Make no mistake about it, minor irritations of people not getting their way has led to the inferno of major inflammation of sin that is consuming our Churches, morals and society alike!
People have shut up when they should have stood up, and then run their mouth to the world when they should have been on their knees with God!
James says in 3:7-10,

7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea animal, can be tamed and has been tamed by human genius (nature). 8But the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison.9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who were made in God's likeness!10Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.

Take note of the two little words in the last sentence: my brethren.

Well, if we don’t know anything else, the basic thing we should understand as Christians belonging to the Body of Christ, is who are brethren are. The Scriptures bear witness to who are true brethren and who are false brethren, even in the Church.

What hope is there for any of us then if James, the brother of Jesus, says no man can tame the tongue? Before you hop on the bandwagon of excuses saying, “The Bible says I can’t help it”… there is a solution.

3Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. –Psalm 141:3

Is it any wonder that David was Beloved of God? He understood then, what James would later convey and what we need to start living now.

James was accurate in saying that no man can tame the tongue. But David understood not only that God could, but that He will, when we call on Him to do it.

Sometimes, personally speaking, I feel that I may need a larger guard than others, or possibly even multiple guards. But I have learned to pray this Scripture routinely.

Has it solved everything? No, because I have to grow. I didn’t teach my children to ride a bike by getting on it for them, but I was right there running alongside them while they learned.

I still shoot sparks out of my mouth sometimes in the wake of minor irritations, but God is quick to reel me in. The choice is mine to listen to Him so that those sparks can be put out, or else dive headlong into an uncontrollable forest fire of major inflammation.

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