Our words, powerful for good or ill

Our words, powerful for good or ill

James 3 v. 1 – 8

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
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.
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.
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.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.’

James returns to a theme he’s mentioned earlier (1 v. 26),
‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves.’

Teachers in the church are singled out, as they have the responsibility to convey the truth, and not to obscure or deny it.

James uses striking imagery to reveal the power of the tongue:
– though a small organ, it steers the whole body (like a rudder)
– though often hidden, if harnessed, it can lead the whole body this way or that (bit and bridle)
– the havoc it can wreak is like wild-fire spreading through a forest – total destruction, like a scene from hell itself – the devil’s work.

Lord Jesus,
I am truly sorry for the times when my words have caused untold damage.
Assist me, in guarding my tongue,
that I may only speak what You would have me say,
to build up, not tear down,
to exalt, not defame,
to speak justice, not to pronounce judgement,
to breathe peace, not mistrust and hatred,
to spread unity, community, not discord and division.

Holy Spirit,
guard my mind, my heart, my tongue,
for Your glory alone.

Phil Gough