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Legend says Catherine O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern to start the Chicago Fire back in 1871, but today historians tend to exonerate the cow. They agree, however, that the fire started in her barn, burned 17,000 buildings, and left 100,000 people homeless. Such a fire illustrates the validity of what James Chapter 3 says about the power of the tongue. We read there, “The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James calls the tongue a flame of fire–a whole world of wickedness that can corrupt our entire body. It can set our whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James explains the impact of an uncontrolled tongue on us as well as on others. Uncontrolled words between nations can create hostility and war, can break relationships among friends and loved ones, and create conflict—sometimes for generations. We often, however, overlook the impact hurtful words have on the person who speaks them. Jesus taught that evil words come from evil thoughts, and evil thoughts originate from an evil heart, and can corrupt the entire person. James agrees with Jesus. By controlling what we say, we are able to control other aspects of our lives. Words are powerful. That is why people of faith ask and rely on God’s Spirit to help them control what they say.

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