James 3:5 says, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”

The tongue (the things we say) is deceptively strong.  As the verse tells us, it is a little member.  It is, in reality, a small part of our bodies, yet with it we can do great damage…even greater than we can do with our arms and legs.  The tongue “boasteth great things” or exercises great power.  It is compared to a match, which is tiny in size, but can start huge fires!  In verse 3, the tongue is compared to a tiny bit that is placed in a horse’s mouth.  That tiny bit controls the horse.  In verse 4, the tongue is compared to the tiny rudder of a huge ship.  That tiny rudder controls the direction of the ship.

Let’s also read verses 7-8, “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  Man has learned how to tame every kind of beast.  We see them perform in circuses, marine aquariums, and other places.  Humans can control huge beasts, yet humans cannot control those tiny tongues of theirs.  This does not mean that it is never brought under control, but that it is impossible to completely subdue it to the point that the tongue is not a concern for us.

The tongue is an ‘unruly evil’ and is ‘full of deadly poison’.  Let’s compare that reality with another reality.  Matthew 12:34 tells us that, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”  The mouth, or tongue, is a reflection of what is in the heart.  We sometimes say hurtful and mean things because that is what is in our hearts.  Even Christians are guilty of this.

However, in spite of the awful destruction the tongue can cause, it can also be used for good when the Lord is controlling us.  We read in Proverbs 12:18, “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but THE TONGUE OF THE WISE IS HEALTH.”  Proverbs 25:11 tells us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

We are instructed in James 1:19-20, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  Realizing the power of the tongue, may we be extremely careful when replying to the words of others.  No matter what is said to us, no matter how hurtful the other person may try to be, our desire should be to minister to that person and honor the Lord with our responses.  It is said of the Lord Jesus in 1 Peter 2:23, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”  May that be our attitude!

May we so commit ourselves in service to the Lord that the things we do AND the things we say reflect His love and mercy to all.  I’m reminded of David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”  (344.6)