We searched through the house, sniffing, carefully trying to locate the source of this light odor. Our son Winston, a teenager at the time, also picked up on the scent and joined in the search. After we could not discover where the smell was coming from we thought to err on the side of caution. We called 911 and described the scent.
All of a sudden we heard sirens! We stuck our heads out the front door and saw several fire trucks, lights flashing and firemen in full gear pulling into our parking lot! It was a full-blown spectacle!
Our neighbors packed the street outside our complex, wondering what was going on! Needless to say, we didn’t expect this much attention! We were saying, “It’s nothing, we thought we smelled electrical wires burning — it’s nothing, really.”
Then more trucks and emergency workers showed up! Just between us, it sure looked like a big deal! The firemen entered the house and immediately picked up the scent. They reported to an official that something electrical was definitely in the air and combed the house to find the source.
These experts took a very thorough search of the premises before they uncovered the truth: A knife with a rubber handle had fallen on a hot coil in our dishwasher and slightly melted, giving off the faint scent similar to an electrical fire!
We were relieved and embarrassed at the same time — well, mostly embarrassed. The firefighters were glad to be of service and exited our building with a throng of people still scratching their heads.
One thing was clear in that false alarm: When it comes to the slightest possibility of a fire, the fire department is dead serious and all business! They were thorough, no nonsense and fully prepared to respond with everything they had to extinguish a fire.
Although it was a cringeworthy moment having that much attention over nothing, we kept saying how it was better that we and the fire department overestimated the danger rather than underestimated it. Better that they jumped on it fast and furious than wait for a slight scent to become a raging inferno! Yes, we did the right thing.
That night, however, I thought about the striking similarities between fire and slander — the misuse of the tongue. James 3:5-6 says, “A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame. The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.
This is especially true when it is used to spread malicious lies, to deceive and slander others. Such a tongue is deadly.
If it’s happened to you, you understand how damaging and destructive false information about others can be. Lives have been ruined, careers destroyed, unwarranted actions have been taken in a rush to judgment, all because of lies and rumors that spread like wildfire.
How did God instruct His people to handle slander? Deuteronomy 19:16-19: states: “If any of you try to harm another by false accusations, both of you are to go to the one place of worship and be judged by the priests and judges who are then in office.
“The judges will investigate the case thoroughly; and if you have made a false accusation, you are to receive the punishment the accused would have received. In this way your nation will get rid of this evil.” — Good News Translation.
Bringing the accused and accuser before the authority of the priests and judges may seem extreme today — almost like a team of firefighters primed to put out a fire before it got started. The fact that they were to “investigate the case thoroughly” indicate this is more serious to God than it is to most people today.
But when we consider that the very first victim of lies and slander was Jehovah God Himself in the Garden of Eden and how all our present-day problems stem from that first lie, it is understandable that He takes false accusations about anyone very seriously.
It is one thing to make a mistake — a slip of the tongue. We all do. It is quite another to deliberately spread untruths about others. James 1:26 says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” — New Living Translation.
Imagine the change in local communities, governments, religions and the media if slander was traced back to its source and people were held accountable for their malicious lies?
By putting out such “fires,” preventing careers and reputations from needlessly going up in smoke by thorough investigations and nipping slander in the bud, we bring a sigh of relief and much less trouble in the world.
More importantly, since God hates “a lying tongue,” according to Proverbs 6:16-19, that in itself should make anyone bite their tongue and check their words before speaking.
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