There once was a time, oh so long ago, when the tree could talk. Yes, and if you were especially quiet walking through the wood, you might even hear it sing. But the tree loved to talk and could tell you all sorts of things; for, you see, it was so tall it could look a great ways into the distance, and had lived a long, long time.
Before the trees lost their voices, they chatted amongst themselves, talking about all kinds of things –birds and squirrels, people passing below, the hot sun, and the soothing water.
And in this particular wood, there were two trees, two very old trees, creaking, and dried, and gnarled from age. Still, like twins they stood so close their branches wove together, intertwining till, if you stood below, you could scarcely discern which branch belonged to which tree. While you might say it is not possible, these trees loved each other as dearly as either you or I could love another.
Now, as you might know, trees are very proud creatures, for, you see, they have much to be proud of. Their might and strength is widely known, and they are very vain in desiring praise. Each tree likes to know they are the tallest, the widest, the strongest, or the prettiest. Yet, only one tree can bear these titles –only one.
Now, it happened one day that a traveler passed through the wood. And on his way, he stopped to rest beneath the twin trees, for he thought them very comfortable. The twin trees were very honored by his choice, and stood the taller for it. Yet, in waking, the man got up to leave, shaking the sleep out of his eyes.
But no tree could say which twin he meant.
And as it went, the trees began to whisper. You might have heard a tree whisper before if ever you’ve been in the forest and heard what you thought was the wind running through the leaves. But, in fact, that was the sound of whispering trees. And all the trees began to whisper amongst each other, each deciding which twin was the prettiest. Yet, their whispers grew sharp, like a harsh, biting wind, driving them apart.
For one tree would say, “Truly, I am more beautiful, for I am taller.”
Another would add, “Surely, they are not pretty, for they must rely on each other for beauty. If they did not stand together, they would not be half to pleasing.”
But no two trees could agree. Their anger spread throughout the wood and consumed them. No tree was left unscathed by the bitterness of the quarrel.
So angered, the twins began to fight against each other, not with blows and swipes like people do, but with words, stinging and biting. Each twin tried to free itself from the other. Yet, in their anger their branches only rubbed together –friction like stubbornness. Their words became so hot that sparks began to fly. If you’ve ever been near old wood and sparks, you know how quickly it turns to fire. Such a little thing, a tongue of fire, and yet, it leapt up between the trees, dancing in their branches, gloating over their boasting and consuming them.
Fire is always hungry and is never satisfied. And so, it jumped from tree to tree. Each tree had cast cutting words into the quarrel and was bitten back by the fire of the words. The flames overcame the grand branches, the sturdy trunks, the green leaves. The beauty of the tree was left to crumbling ash.
Coming to survey his charred forest, the Master of the wood passed over the roots that once supported trees, and under a sky that once was hidden by branches. He walked over trails that were no more. All the splendor of the forest disappeared. There was no green and brown and gold reflected from the brook. The gentle waters only showed the cold blue sky, and the charred, black earth. All the beauty was transformed into blackness.
He cried for his trees and said, “Now, oh beautiful trees, you know the destructive power of the tongue.”
Trees have grown up again in the wood. But, since that day, they have never forgotten the fire in hurtful words.
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6
Photo Credit 1