This is a process. This is a serious thing. We will be held responsible for everything we say to others -- good and bad. When you teach or preach you say even more stuff!
"3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts." James 3:3-5a
The tongue is compared to a horse and a ship -- both are extremely powerful. The horse is guided by a piece of metal that can fit in a child's hand. The ship's rudder is 1/1000th the size of the ship.
People often say "it's just words" but it is never just words.
Prevalence of Speech:
The average person speaks 1/5 of their lives
A single day’s words would fill a 50 page book
A year’s words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each!
"Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, 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 3:5b-6
The Chicago fire was started by one small lantern being kicked over. Our tongue is more powerful than a forest fire -- think of the California wild fires of last year. The property destroyed, the lives lost -- our tongue can do even more damage with its words!
The previous warnings of James:
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," James 1:19
"Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless." James 1:26
Obviously this was a big problem in the early church and it is still a big problem. As long as humans are on earth we will need to be reminded to think before we speak; that words cannot be taken back; that a loose tongue is a weapon that does much damage.
"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Luke 6:45
We can't fake what is in our hearts. What is within us will come out in our speech. If a person is harsh very likely that person has anger in his/her heart. It is all about the heart.
"But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” Matthew 15:18-20
We need to think before we speak. We must use a filter from our brains to our mouths. Some of us need new filters. Some of us still need filters.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:7
The word for poison here is venom -- the deadliest venom known to man. When we curse others or slander them this is no different than doing this to God. And that is bad...
" With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." James 3:9-12
Words from Proverbs about the tongue and our speech:
12:18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
17:27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit
33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Matthew 12:33-34
People are starving for positive words. We can start anywhere. We can bless others with kindness and kind words everywhere we go.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:13
Humility comes from wisdom. Wisdom comes from God.
2 Corinthians 5:17
" Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!"
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
These are learned behaviors. We have no excuse. If we have accepted Jesus we have the Holy Spirit who will guide us if we let Him.
"But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James 3:14-16
"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness." James 3:17-18