My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 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. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. - James 3
In this chapter, James has a lot to say about the tongue, but I think it can be summed up very simply. The tongue, though a small member of the body, can perform great works in our lives. It has the power to heal, help, and encourage, but it also has the power to hurt, anger, and destroy. The difference is in how we use our tongues and in how well we have the tongue under control.
As a child, one thing my parents drilled into me is "Think before you speak." Before we utter any sound from our mouths, we ought to stop and ask ourselves a few questions:
1. Does this need to be said?
2. Will these words help or hurt?
3. Are these thoughts pleasing to the Lord, and therefore, thoughts that should be voiced?
4. Can I rephrase this to make it an encouragement instead of an accusation?
It's so easy to allow our tongues to get the best of us. When frustrated or stressed, we tend to say things that we later regret. Let's strive today to be more careful in how we use our tongues. The tongue is a gift from the Lord and should be used for His glory. Let's uplift instead of tear down. Let's make a special effort to keep control of our "little member." After all, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.