Action Zones 

Watch out for unguarded sparks!

13th October 2022

Following the wild fires caused by the very hot and dry weather during the summer, Tony Mallion reminds us of some advice in the bible which draws on a comparison with such fires

It was a bit disappointing when our recent trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway had to be pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive rather than a steam engine. This was for obvious safety reasons as the slightest spark from a steam train could so easily have started a fire along the route
Climate change has come home. Extreme heat, drought conditions, tinder dry land, and wild fires are no longer something we hear about in distant places like Australia or California; now they are affecting the whole UK including homes in Norfolk being destroyed
Fire is always frightening but, as their name makes clear, wild fires move and spread at alarming speed. As fire officers have often warned us over the summer, the flames move faster than we can run from them. And these fires really do spring from the smallest spark. We may not have too many steam trains but an outdoor barbecue, a cigarette butt, or a piece of broken glass magnifying the sun’s rays can all be the catalyst. We need to take care
Writing some two thousand years ago James, the brother of Jesus and an early church leader, used the terrifying image of the wild fire to bring home another potential danger – the very words we speak. From our small tongue words can also create havoc. We are all capable of this to a greater or lesser extent
James says: “A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire’. He explains: ‘The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire”. His advice is that we need to learn to control our tongue because it has such power. ‘We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches’
We may not be President Putin issuing orders but we can, and maybe should, watch our tongue all the same. James was sending a warning to the churches of his day; but the words are timeless and can be just as relevant now

Bible quotation James Chapter 3 New Living Translation

The wildfire picture is courtesy of Matthias Fischer on


Tony Mallion is a former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter who now worships at St Thomas' Church in Norwich
(photo: cedit Stephen Gostick)



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