Where I come from in northern Ghana, bush fires are regular occurrences in the dry season between December and March. I’ve witnessed many acres of farmland set ablaze when the winds carried tiny embers from fireplaces or from cigarette butts carelessly thrown by the roadside. With the dry grassland vegetation, all that is needed to start a devastating fire is a little spark.
That is how James describes the tongue, calling it “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” (James 3:6 niv). A false statement made here or backbiting there, a vicious remark somewhere else, and relationships are destroyed. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords,” says Proverbs 12:18, “but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Just as fire has both destructive and useful elements, so “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (18:21).
For conversation that reflects God’s presence in us and pleases Him, let it “always be with grace” (Col. 4:6). When expressing our opinions during disagreements, let’s ask God to help us choose wholesome language that brings honor to Him.
Guide my conversation today, Lord. May the words I choose bless and encourage others and build them up rather than tear them down. May You be pleased with what You hear.
Anger can make us speak our mind when we should be minding our speech.
The book of James is often referred to as “the Proverbs of the New Testament.” The emphasis on wisdom and behavior throughout its five brief chapters makes the comparison understandable. James’s well-known warning about the explosive threat hiding behind our lips is sandwiched between verses about the relationship between faith and deeds (2:14-26) and between wisdom and deeds (3:13-18). It seems that James is suggesting that faith and wisdom are both significantly demonstrated in our ability to control our tongue. In other words, our speech puts our faith and our wisdom on display for everyone to see.