For lack of wood the fire goes out
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
The image painted by Solomon in this verse is one that most people would immediately understand. To have a useful fire, it requires fuel. In those days, a fire was usually fueled by wood. In the modern world, fire is also fueled by other means. However, the point is the same. If there is no fuel, a fire cannot continue. Therefore, it must be regularly supplied with fuel to keep going.
The same is true for quarreling. As fallen people, we tend to love controversy. Discussions of every kind can be heard in the halls of churches and the rooms of homes. Sometimes they lead to quarrels that are useless and unprofitable. The quarreling that Solomon has in mind here is the one that a whisperer fuels. That is, a person that reveals secrets is always running his mouth, gossiping about others, talebearing, and using his tongue for evil instead of good. Nothing good comes from that sort of fuel, that sort of source.
On the contrary, it leads to division and discord. James rightly states that the “tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (Jas. 3:6). The same image is presented in this verse as Solomon’s offers. Therefore, we must be cautious about how we use our tongues. We must guard our words and avoid unnecessary quarreling. We must not be people that slander or gossip about others. If we do, it will lead to ruin. It will not lead to a helpful fire but one that destroys everything in its path. How many lives have been ruined by one who does not guard his tongue but uses it for destruction? That may not be the intention, but the danger still exists.
None of us are immune to the danger of an uncontrolled tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. I have witnessed and sadly participated in this sin within my circle of friends. It is too easy, it seems, to whisper, slander, and speak unkindly about others. I think pastors and elders are especially prone to this sin and must be extra-diligent because they have occasion to know many things — much of them offered in confidence. It is hard to discern, at times, when to say something to someone else as you seek to serve them. However, pastors are not the only ones in danger of fueling an uncontrolled fire. Church members, too, must be careful as well. When you are off in a corner, speaking under your breath, are you using your tongue for good and edification or wickedness and evil? Are you fueling the fire that will destroy homes, churches, and lives? Are you listening to a “fire starter” and contributing to this sin? When it happens to you, do you drown their words with water by telling the other person to cease their evil ways? If not, you are part of the fuel that leads to destruction. Remember, the Lord hears every idle word. He hears every whisper. He sees every email and text message. He sees, and he knows.
There are many good things to talk about in this life, and many of them are good and edifying to the souls of others. Use your tongue for those things and not as an instrument to fuel a raging fire. Speak to others about your prayer life, Bible, and book reading. Speak to others about how the Lord is sanctifying you in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Speak to others about their affairs, asking questions about their lives and how you might serve them. Ask others to pray for you and how you can pray for them. If God’s people did these things, there would not be time for using the tongue for evil.
The tongue is restless. It will fuel a fire that will destroy people. The problem, of course, is the heart. Examine your heart. Ask yourself if you participate in this sin. Ask yourself why. Then repent of it, plead the grace and mercy of God, and purpose by the means God has given to refuse to fuel fires with whispers, slanders, and gossip that will only ruin others and harm your soul. The Lord will sustain you as you pray, “Lord, give me what you command.”
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