“[The tongue] is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:9).
A hotheaded woman told John Wesley, “My talent is to speak my mind.”
Wesley replied, “Woman, God wouldn’t care a bit if you buried that talent.”
Our tongue reveals a lot about us: what we think, how we spend our time, and where we live. James deals with the tongue in his chapter on wisdom. Why wisdom? Proverbs 12:18 says that “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and in 18:21 that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Words have the power to heal or destroy.
The tongue guides life (verses 2-3). A small piece of metal in a horse’s mouth can guide and make a horse turn. A farmer once said, “Horse sense is seldom hitched to a waggin’ tongue.” A small piece of wood or metal can turn a massive ship around. And our little tongue can change a person’s life.
The tongue harms life (verses 5-8). The tongue is like a tiny spark that can destroy a whole forest in flames. The tongue can rip a person to shreds, as surely as a wild animal. A tongue lashing can poison a person’s whole life. A sharp tongue is no indication of a keen mind.
The tongue blesses life (verses 11-12). Words can refresh a person like a fountain spring on a hot day. The tongue can give encouragement and strength, like the sweetest fruit from a tree.
Did you ever notice that it takes a child two years to learn to talk, yet it takes a man his whole life to learn how to keep his mouth shut?
A wise person’s words are not laced with profanity. Rather, they are laced with purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, friendship, and integrity (verse 17). What do your words reveal about you?