“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” (James 3:3-6, NIV).
A horse can be guided by a small thing... a bit in its mouth. A ship can be steered by a small thing...a rudder which can move its large bulk easily and freely. Small things make a difference in the larger scheme of life. The tongue is a small, but potent thing. Although small it can destroy a life or build a life. It can speak hope or it can speak destruction. James compares it to a spark which can start a great forest fire. Your tongue can be a small, but powerful tool. Having control over your tongue is the only way to be an effective and life-changing servant of Jesus Christ.
There is a great problem. No one can truly tame his own tongue. The only way to tame the human tongue is the power of the Holy Spirit. You need His power to temper your tongue and give your His wisdom. Are you like me and have said anything you have deeply regretted ? In reading James 3, I asked God to show me His truth about the tongue. These are some things I found.
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16, NIV). Two things are mentioned twice in this passage...envy and selfish ambition. Whether praying for someone or sharing a scripture, if there is any envy or selfish ambition in what we are saying, it is not of God. James goes on to reveal some powerful forces behind envy and selfish ambition: influences which are demonic, unspiritual, and evil. This should be enough to stop us in our tracks and make us consider if what we are about to say comes from envy or from the need for recognition? If yes, then we should hold your tongue.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17-18, NIV). We need to always ask ourselves. Is what I'm about to say pure (clear with no confusion)? Is it peaceful and considerate of another one's feelings? Is it willing to yield to God's control? Is it merciful? Is it edifying? Is it honest and sincere and free of any hypocrisy?
Things spoken from envy and selfish ambition can cause a great fire and destroy God's purpose. Things spoken with the wisdom that comes from God will edify and reap a great harvest. It is my choice to yield to the Holy Spirit and receive God's wisdom. It is my choice to speak life.