Paul called the forgiven to be marked by gracious speech. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5–6) He called us to gentle speech, salted speech, the kind of speech that begets the fruit of knowledge of how to answer others. This is patient speech. Sober speech. Thoughtful speech. Compelling speech. Wise speech. Compassionate speech.
It was a large, strange fire. Those who rushed to put it out found that it not only roared, but seemed to bark as it spread. The smoldering fields and orchards. The flaming foxes running this way and that. The damage. The confusion. The chaos. I read the scene again and wondered if it didn’t fitly describe the landscape of some of our online interaction today.
Do you remember the story? Samson made a substantial wager in Judges 14:14 that the Philistines could not answer his riddle,
Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.
Three days go by, and they had no answer. The Philistines grew anxious, then irritated, then enraged. This Israelite was about to impoverish them (Judges 14:15). So, they blackmailed Samson’s wife, threatening to burn her and her father alive if she did not discover the answer for them.
Extorted, she wept to her husband for days, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is” (Judges 14:16). On the last day of the celebration, he caved. She told her kinsmen, and Samson loses the bet. Things then turn violent. Embittered by the betrayal, Samson kills thirty Philistines and pays his debt with their belongings.
A few days after he returns, he discovers that his wife was given in marriage to his best man. Incensed, Samson captures 300 foxes, ties their tails together, secures a torch between the pair of tails, lights the torches, and lets them loose in the Philistines’ fields and orchards. Imagine the scene. Imagine the alarmed barks of the frantic foxes. The roar of the flames. The smolder of the Philistine economy, as the fields become smoke and chaos.
Small Yet Devastating
As in Samson’s day, foxes now run in our social media circles with fire on their tails. Our incendiary online culture has been well documented. Some of us (myself included) have scrolled just to find the latest fire, the freshest controversy, the newest uproar. We may have more arsonist in us than we assume.
Connecting those fiery foxes to our increasingly hostile discourse, I believe, is to downplay — not overexaggerate — the seriousness of the flames we see today.