Words of life
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:3-6 NLT
James was writing to believers who were undergoing persecution. One of the things that can happen when one is suffering is the tendency to argue, to complain, find someone to blame or to criticize. The truth is that our difficulties can make us less careful about sin. The fact that we are struggling can make us think that we “deserve a break” and that we are allowed to take few liberties like lashing to somebody. James wanted his readers to know that the persecution they were enduring did not give them the right to throw off all restraint. It did not give them the right to talk as if they were not Christians. The persecution gave them the opportunity to show the difference that their Christianity had made in their lives, but they could not do this if they were talking irresponsibly. When we are going through difficult times, there is a tendency to forget that we are Christ’s followers and are expected to have control of our tongue. That is what James is emphasizing from the text. Though the tongue is very small, it is extremely powerful. James compared the tongue to a small rudder that can stir a huge ship. He also used the analogy of a small bit that is used to direct a large horse. The captain stirs the ship to where it wants to go using the small rudder. The rider can tug the reins that will move the bits in the horse’s mouth so the horse will go to the direction the rider wants. A large forest can be destroyed if there is a small unattended campfire. The point James is trying to emphasize from the text is that an uncontrolled tongue can corrupt and destroy the whole body. The words that come out of our mouth can edify and give life to others. This happens when it is controlled under the grace and power of God at work in us.