Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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.
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.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
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.
Words have power. What we say to ourselves and others has an impact. Our words help process our thoughts, share emotions, comfort, and heal. Words also have the power to create. God used just a few words to create the entire universe! We use words to build relationships, express ourselves, and encourage others. The most personal connection we have to God is our words.
This passage encourages us to use our words wisely. James compares the power of our words to steering a horse with a small rein and a boat with a small rudder. Something so small, like a rein or rudder, has the power to steer something so mighty. Likewise, our words have the power to steer our impact on others. That’s why James also says, “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.” We’re called to use our words for one purpose: praise God and encourage others.
When Jesus is Lord of our words, it places a great responsibility on us for how we use them.
So, how are you using your words? How is it obvious that Jesus is the Lord of your words?