James 3:1-10 (CEB)

My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.

Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.

Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.

People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!


It’s impossible to read this passage and not feel a few twinges of guilt.

We’ve all done it – repeatedly! You spoke before you thought and insulted, denigrated, or put someone down. Your words were harsher than you meant them to be. Something that should have just been a passing angry thought ended up getting tossed out into the space between you and someone you love. You retold a story that you’d heard about an acquaintance that you weren’t even sure was true.

The tongue is like a forest fire – a tiny spark can create a conflagration that burns out of control. How ironic that we can speak words of prayer and blessing one minute, and all kinds of angry and hateful things in the next! We can tame so many things, but will we ever learn to tame our tongues?

For Pondering & Prayer

What would happen if today you asked God to help you speak only words of encouragement?

James says that those who teach are expected to model the behaviors they’re trying to develop in others. When you open your mouth today, who is looking to you as a role model?