The streets are abandoned, buildings are gone, graffiti-strewn highways are buckled. What was once a prosperous mining community is now a ghost town, an unfortunate tourist novelty nestled in the central Appalachian Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. In May of 1962, the city council of Centralia proposed cleaning up a local landfill by setting fire to the dump. The surface fire was extinguished, but beneath the town, in a labyrinth of mine shafts, a conflagration fed by coal would rage out of control. As the years went on, the ground beneath the city reached degrees in excess of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, with smoke and toxic gasses pouring out of sinkholes and basements. Even two cemeteries would drop into the abyss of fire raging below them. Six decades later, the fire still burns below the abandoned city, and there is no way to stop it.
Located southeast of the old city of Jerusalem was a deep, narrow glen that, during the days that Jesus walked the earth, served as a perpetually blazing trash heap. In Old Testament days, child sacrifices were offered to the pagan gods Molech and Baal in this “valley of slaughter,” a practice sadly adopted by the idolatrous children of Israel during the darkest days of their nation. The Valley of Hinnom, translated Gehenna in the New Testament, would became the local dump, constantly aflame with garbage, the bodies of dead animals and criminals, and all types of unimaginable filth.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; it is set on fire of hell.” That intense warning from James uses an interesting word for “fire of hell,” and it is Gehenna, immediately painting a picture of that burning, defiled garbage dump. A tiny tongue can do huge things, many of them destructive. Fires can destroy lives, and so can unbridled tongues. When unleashed within the church, the tongue can cause great damage to the body of Christ, causing division, harmed reputations, and destroyed relationships. That’s why we are exhorted to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
As I ponder that Pennsylvanian ghost town devastated by an unseen fire, I am warned of the danger posed by my own lips. May I always seek to “minister grace” to those around me, not inflame division and hurt.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon the earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Lord, set a watch upon my lips that I may not hurt others and shame the God Whom I serve.<div class='sharedaddy sd-block sd-like jetpack-likes-widget-wrapper jetpack-likes-widget-unloaded' id='like-post-wrapper-164683012-2983-6391e0d644487' data-src='https://widgets.wp.com/likes/#blog_id=164683012&post_id=2983&origin=wp.blog.blog.grandmasgleanings.com&obj_id=164683012-2983-6391e0d644487' data-name='like-post-frame-164683012-2983-6391e0d644487' data-title='Like or Reblog'><h3 class="sd-title">Like this:</h3><div class='likes-widget-placeholder post-likes-widget-placeholder' style='height: 55px;'><span class='button'><span>Like</span></span> <span class="loading">Loading...</span></div><span class='sd-text-color'></span><a class='sd-link-color'></a></div>