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A Little Fire, an Eyeball, and the Tongue

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! James 3:5

I was splitting wood with my brother in preparation for the winter. In the course of all the sawdust flying around from a combination of the chain saw and the wood splitter, a small piece of sawdust found its way past my eyelid and into the very personal space known as my eyeball. Not a big deal – it happens all the time to lots of people who may not even be splitting wood – until it wouldn’t come out. It started as just a simple irritation that I thought I could easily remove by the normal methods of blinking, rubbing, or pulling at my eyelid. However, nothing seemed to work. Within a few hours, the aggravation was so intense that I would have gladly popped out my eyeball and washed it if that is what someone told me I needed to do. I just wanted it to go away. After several more hours of fruitless self-medication, I finally found myself in the emergency room where the doctor was able to put some numbing drops in my eye to ease the extreme discomfort. He turned my eyelid inside out and found an almost microscopic piece of dust that was doing its best impersonation of a plow trying to dig furrows in my eyeball. A few squirts of a saline solution were all that was needed to relieve a pain I thought would be my undoing. Finally healthy again, the thought hit me just how amazing it is that something so tiny could control my entire life.

I believe that is the point James is trying to make in this passage about the tongue. In comparison with a lot of our other body parts, the tongue is a small member, but it carries with it a tremendous weight. The tongue has the power to build up or destroy. It has the power to ease pain or make it excruciatingly unbearable. It can produce the sweetest nectar or the most lethal poison. It is such a small thing, but it can control our entire lives.

A wise man will learn to control his tongue. It has been aptly said that you cannot get into trouble for something you don’t say. Yet, the majority of people exercise little wisdom in the use of their tongues. A microscopic piece of dust controlled my entire body for the better part of a day, and it was miserable. What a great reminder to make sure that I don’t allow my tongue to make my life miserable by my lack of control over it.

Read also: James 3:1-18

Quote of the day: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

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