It’s the little things in life that make a big difference… a virus, a tiny rock in your shoe, a speck in your eye, or a splinter. These small things that can have a great impact on the body. So it is with our tongue. It’s not very big, but it has enormous power. The epistle of James has much to say about the tongue.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. 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. James 3:1-5a
The tongue has the power to direct like the bit and the rudder, two small items that exercise great power. A small bit enables the rider to control a massive horse, and a small rudder enables the pilot to steer a huge ship. The tongue is a small member in the body, and yet it has the power to accomplish great things.
Both the bit and the rudder have to overcome opposing forces. The bit has to overcome the wild horse, and the rudder has to fight the winds and waves that could drive a ship off course. The tongue also has to overcome contrary forces from within and without.
The bit and the rudder have to be under the control of a strong hand. When we allow the Spirit to control our tongue we don’t have to worry about saying the wrong things. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. When Jesus is the Lord of your heart, He's going to be Lord of your lips too.
The bit and rudder have the power to direct, which means they affect the lives of others. Likewise our words can hurt or heal, encourage or discourage, build up or tear down.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:5a-8
The tongue also has the power to destroy like fire or a wild animal. Like a spark that causes a great forest fire, some tongues blaze out of control and the result is destruction. A hot temper leads to burning words that later we will regret.
Fire spreads, and the more fuel you give it, the faster and farther it will spread. A person’s entire life can be injured or destroyed by the tongue. The words we speak have the power to destroy.
The tongue is also like a wild animal. It’s restless and seeks its prey, then pounces and kills. Some animals are poisonous, and some tongues spread poison. Poison works secretly and slowly, and then kills. An untamed tongue accomplishes the same thing.
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. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:9–12
The controlled tongue has the power to delight. Nothing quenches the thirst like water. The tongue can be delightful like a drink of water. Water is life-giving and our words can give life. When water or words are uncontrolled, they bring death and destruction.
The tongue can be delightful just like a tree. Trees help to hold down the soil, they provide beauty and shade and they bear fruit. Delightful words can bring the beauty of encouragement to others.
The most important thing about a tree is the root system. If the roots do not go down deep, the tree will not grow in a healthy manner. If we are rooted in the things of God, our words will impart grace to the hearer.
If your tongue is inconsistent, there is something wrong with your heart. The tongue that blesses the Father, and then turns around and curses men made in God’s image, needs spiritual medicine!
In order to have tongues that delight, spend time with God daily. Get your spiritual roots deep into His Word. Pray and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with God’s love and truth.
Remember Jesus said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:18.