And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! James 3: 2-5
You’ve heard the phrase – He or she has a way with words. In the verses above, James provides three effective word pictures to help us understand that the size of a tool isn’t always an indicator of its ultimate power.
In the third chapter of his letter, James reminds us of the destructive power of the words we speak. James talks of the great power of the tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” These are perhaps the most powerful words of the chapter.
The words we use can encourage, teach, motivate and inspire others. On the other hand, our words can also injure, discourage, upset, and destroy the lives of others.
No doubt, each of us has been on the receiving end of some negative comments at one time or another, but what about the words we speak? Let’s remember the exhortation from the first chapter of James – let’s be quick to consider others and listen and slow to speak. How many fires might be put out before the first match is struck?