When Bernard Baruch was an ambitious young businessman, he asked the wealthy J. P. Morgan to partner with him in a Texas sulfur mining venture. Geologists had given the project a favorable report, but there was still some risk. Morgan was interested until Baruch said, “You’ve taken bigger gambles than this.”

Morgan glared at him and then replied in an icy tone, “I never gamble.” The word gambles had killed the deal. Morgan thought that investing was respectable but that gambling was a sin.

If one word, innocently misspoken, can cost millions, think of how much damage malicious words can cause. They can ruin a person’s reputation and destroy the closest relationships.

James minced no words in warning about the power of the tongue. He said it’s easier to control a horse, guide a mighty ship, and tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures than to control the tongue (3:3-8). He called it a “fire” ignited by hell itself (v.6), and “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (v.8).

We all would be wise to pray daily, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).