James in this chapter speaks to the need for us to guard our words & for us to walk our lives through genuine wisdom.
I. How we use our words reflects what is in us.
Verses 3-6 NIV says – “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
James reminds us that the words we speak need to be thought through and carefully spoken. When we allow our words to run free with no thought we are living a life that has no self control. The damage that can be done by this type of loose tongue can take years to reverse.
I remember hearing a story one time about a little boy who spoke something in a moment of frustration to his grandfather. He later felt bad for those words and went to ask forgiveness. His grandfather took that moment to teach this young boy a very valuable life lesson. He led the boy outside and gave him a feather pillow. He told him to cut the pillow and let the feathers blow free into the wind. After the feathers were all released, he told his grandson to now go and collect every feather and put them back into the pillow. The boy said, “that can’t be done, they are gone” to which the grandfather replied, “so it is my son with your words, once they have been spoken they cannot be returned.”
A very sober but thought provoking lesson. James tells us that the man who is able to control his tongue is able to direct his whole body. He makes the analogy of the small rudder that directs the ship. The tongue although small leads the course. Wow, if you really think about that it is powerful. If I lead my words, I am directing my life course.
We know the Bible places incredible value on the power of our words. We have the ability to release life or death with what we speak & James is again reminding us of the need to be the leader of our words to release life and blessing.
When our faith is authentic there will be a desire to walk in self-control and to lead our words instead of letting our tongue lead us..