This week we begin a new series on the book of James, A Way with Words. The book of James is about many things, including the righteousness of God, the good works of God’s people, the problem of wealth, the life of faith, and for our purposes in this series: the power of words.
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
2 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.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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’ argument is straightforward: small part, big influence. A bit can turn a horse, a rudder can turn a ship. Likewise, the tongue, although very small, can control the whole body.
When have you noticed the power of your tongue to cause great harm?
When have you used the power of your tongue to do great good?
Heavenly Father, as our brother James reminds us, we do all stumble in many ways. We have sinned against you and against those who are made in your image. Forgive us, we pray. Give us the faith and the discipline to control our tongues, to speak words that heal rather than hurt, and to use our mouths to bring you glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.