Devotional: ‘The Power of the Tongue’


James 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Those of you who have been around horses are probably familiar with the bridle and the bit. The bridle is a leather harness that is wrapped around the horse’s head and attached to it is a small piece of metal known as the bit. Through the bridle and the bit a rider is able to guide their animal. Likewise is the rudder of a ship. Though the rudder is a small piece of wood attached to be back of the vessel, it is the primary mechanism by which the pilot steers the ship.

With these two illustrations in mind, James directs our attention to our tongue.

James 3:5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

Though our tongue is very small in comparison to the other parts of our body, our tongue is very powerful and influential. The Bible says – “death and life are in the power of the tongue…” [1]  James warns us that an evil tongue can corrupt our entire body.

If these words were not enough to caution us about our tongue, James shares yet another sobering truth. “…the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness… and set on fire by hell.” Our tongue can become a tool of the devil. Our tongue can be like a fire that is fueled by hell.

Though James’ words are very strong, they are very important for us to consider and understand. Not only can we harm others with the careless use of our tongue; we can harm ourselves as well. Therefore, we need to do all we can to make sure that our tongue is under control.

James tells us that no one is able to tame their tongue by themselves. [2] We cannot change the way we use our tongue simply by telling ourselves that we will no longer speak inappropriately. James says that our tongue is often like a wild animal that is out of control. What can we do?

Jesus said – “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” [3] Often the problem with our tongue is what we allow to linger in our heart. If we allow evil thoughts to linger in our heart, we will eventually say them. There we must do as Solomon wrote – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

[1] Proverbs 18:21

[2] James 3:8

[3] Matthew 15:18

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