“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6 CSB)
James apparently had some experience with the tongue. He uses some interesting metaphors to describe its power. He saw its power as a teacher, on the positive side. He noted that a bit is a very small device that can be used to control a powerful horse. He mentioned that the pilot of a ship uses a relatively small rudder to control a huge ship that is driven by powerful winds. He compared the tongue to a small fire that ignites a devastating forest fire. He noted that man has tamed every animal on earth in some way but has not been able to tame the tongue. He reminds us that out of the same mouth comes both blessing and cursing, which ought not to be.
Make no mistake about it – the tongue, or speech, is a powerful force. Nations have been set on collision courses by it. Napoleon was a powerful orator who whipped the French nation and army into a nationalistic frenzy that stood Europe on its head. Adolph Hitler was an even more powerful orator who used his communication abilities to ignite a world war. This tiny part of the human body has done enormous damage in human history.
But the tongue is only the tool. Like everything, its value is in its use and in who is using it. A bit can control a horse to get someone to a place of ministry. A rudder can control a ship to bring food and needed supplies. A fire can either destroy a forest or cook a meal. It all depends on purpose, intent, use, and control.
To use the tongue in the ways that God intended, we must keep constant vigil on the heart and the mind. Those are the “hands” behind the use of the tongue. These must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. That is how to reckon with this powerful force. Discipline of the tongue, empowered by the Holy Spirit is how we can use it for good.
Lord, May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, and may they be used as a force for good in our world. Amen.