Scripture: James 3:1-6
Even though we are warned repeatedly that we must be careful about what we say, we often find ourselves having said something that we ought not to have said. However, we can take encouragement from James’ observation that if anyone hasn’t misspoken or sinned by what they said, then he/she must be perfect. So we should not become discouraged if getting a handle on our tongue proves to be more than difficult.
The tongue holds a unique position in our spiritual lives. James compares it to a horse’s bridle or a ship’s rudder, both of which are small but determine the course of something much larger. Similarly, even though the tongue is small, it has the power to determine our course in life. To further stress his point, James speaks of the tongue as a flame or spark that is ready to set anything and everything ablaze with the very fires of Hell. This is certainly a dramatic picture, but is it really that bad?
Consider the implications that our words have for us. Everything we say (and do) can be placed into one of two categories: things that glorify God and things that do not glorify God. When we spend our time doing things that glorify God we move closer to God. (Note: this doesn’t mean you have to spend all day, every day in church or charity work. See Colossians 3:23.). When we spend our time doing things that don’t glorify God, we drift away from Him. Do you see where this is going? To borrow one of James’ analogies, our tongue has the ability to steer our ship closer to or further away from God. In some cases it can even set our ship on fire. The things we say affect our relationship with God, for better or for worse.
The tongue can be a flame that provides light, warmth, and comfort, or it can be a flame that burns homes and bridges. That is why we must attend to it regularly so that it does not burn out of control.
1) Do you think that a small flame is a good description of the tongue? Why or why not?
2) In what ways have you noticed people (including yourself) being “steered” by their words?
3) How can we use our tongue to steer our ship closer to God?
4) How can our words move others closer to or further from God?