I am a caregiver at the Light of Hope Orphanage in Mexico. I am currently taking care of four boys. In helping my boys work through their past, I have come to the realization that all of them have been hurt with words. This got me thinking about the importance of our speech.
James 3:1-12 highlights the power of the tongue. Later on he writes that the Christian life is more about actions and less about talking. He challenges the reader to put words into action.
In verse one James warns teachers to be careful because they will be judged with greater strictness. We are responsible for what we teach others.
Verse two gives a caution because we all fail in many things. If anyone does not fail in what he says, he is a perfect man, and is able to control his entire body. Who is perfect? Only God is.
Verse three uses horses as an example. With a bit in its mouth we are able to control the entire body. We must obey the Bible and use it as the “bit” to control our tongue.
In verse four James gives another example. Ships, though they are large and driven by strong winds, are guided by a small rudder, wherever the pilot directs. Our tongue is so small but can control so much—just like a rudder on a ship.
Verses five and six reveal the damage the tongue is capable of doing. How small the tongue is yet it boasts of great things!
A forest fire is started with just a tiny spark. In the same way the tongue can destroy so much. One word or a sentence can destroy a relationship. It can hurt someone for life.
The tongue is a world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth, the cycle of man’s nature, being itself ignited by hell.
In verse seven James writes that every kind of creature has been tamed by man. Just imagine lions and whales being tamed by man!
Yet in verse eight it says the human tongue can be tamed by no man. That is astounding—we can train and tame the world’s wildest and largest animals, but we are not capable of controlling our little tongue.
It is undisciplined, irreconcilable, restless, evil, full of death, bringing poison (Mathew 16:23b paraphrased). Your mind is not thinking on the things of God but the things of man with a incorrect motive.
“With our tongue we bless the Lord our Father and with it curse men who were made in God’s likeness! Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to to be so” (vs. 11-12).
Does a fountain send forth simultaneously from the same opening fresh water and bitter? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can a salt spring furnish fresh water.
We as Christians cannot talk good one moment and the next moment bad. If bad things are always coming out of our mouth, maybe our heart was never changed. The end of Luke 6:45 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Let’s take James’ warning seriously. It’s not a matter of “Oops I let a word slip.” It’s about “Who are you? How is your heart? Were you really changed by God if these things still come out of your mouth?”
Take time to examine your heart. When we do get hurt by words, we must let God use it for the better and not get bitter!
Scriptures used from the ESV and Amplified Bibles.