The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of watching how we speak to others, and the most pointed scripture on this issue is found in James 3.
The majority of James 3 discusses the importance of "taming the tongue" (i.e. watching what we say to others). Is this something you struggle with? If so, you can find essential lessons about the dangers of an unrestrained tongue in James 3:1-12.
READ ALSO: 5 POWERFUL LESSONS (AND WARNINGS) IN JAMES 1
Let's dive a bit deeper into what "taming the tongue" really means.
The Tongue is Small, but Mighty
James 3 makes it clear that the tongue is small, but mighty. This is an important lesson to learn, especially when it comes to the heated elements of conflict.
We tell kids "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Unfortunately, this is built on faulty logic. James Chapter 3 dives into this dynamic in verses 3-5:
"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."
In our own lives, we can probably remember moments we have said (or heard) something brief that set off anger and frustration. After all, only a few terse words can spark chaos.
The tongue can be a "small rudder" that speaks life or inflicts pain, which is why James 3 calls us to watch what we say and how we say it, especially when dealing with others.
Taming the Tongue: A Major 'Fire' Can Break Out
The language used in James 3:5-6 (NIV) is also quite powerful, as James invokes the image of fire to illustrate the damage we can cause when we speak with an unrestrained tongue.
"Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark," verse 5 reads, with verses 6 continuing, "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."
When we consider the evil we can inflict on others and ourselves when we speak with hatred or anger, it can be quite convicting.
But this language forces us to think about the pain that can spread in a fire-like manner, with images of hell only adding to the powerful elements that are invoked.
Avoiding the 'Deadly Poison' of the Tongue
As James 3:1-12 continues, we are faced with even more pointed language about the dangers of the tongue. In fact, Verse 8 proclaims that no one can "tame the tongue."
This verses goes on to call it a "restless evil" that is "full of deadly poison." These realities in James Chapter 3 should cause us to think deeply about how we speak to people in our lives.
If we know the tongue can inflict such pain, what ways do we need to adapt our own speech to be sure we are speaking with grace, kindness and compassion? This is an important question worth considering in each of our own lives.
Taming the Tongue: Avoiding Double Speak
As we round out to the end of James 3:1-12, we encounter a proclamation that warns us to avoid double speak — praising God while also speaking out against our fellow man.
James 3:9-12 (NIV) offers a convicting lesson for us all:
"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
You can read all of James 3 — and specifically James 3:1-12 — over at Biblica. All of these verses and lessons are reminders that we must think deeper about what we are saying to others.
Jesus commands us to "love God and love others" and living that out means speaking and interacting with others in a vibrant, compassionate and loving way.
Let's all pray about how we can be better in this arena. Also, be sure to get even more inspiration by trying out Pure Flix today. You can stream thousands of faith and family-friendly TV shows and movies.