In James 3, we are given metaphors for what our “tongue” (or the words we
say) is like. James says our words have inherent power, and that power can
be used either for good or evil.
He explains the power of the tongue with two analogies: the bridle of a
horse (verse 3) and the rudder of a ship (verse 4). Have you ever ridden a
horse? Horses are large, powerful creatures, but they
can be turned this way and that by a small bridle. In the same way, large
ships made of wood are driven by powerful winds at sea, but a single pilot
can control a ship by turning a thin rudder.
The bridle and the rudder are comparatively small, yet they possess great
power. In the same way, the tongue is one of the smallest parts of the
body, yet it packs enormous power.
The tongues of Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill during World War II
illustrate the inherent power of the tongue. On the one hand, Hitler’s
passionate, angry speeches appealed to the worst in people, stoking the
fires of resentment until they flared up into war and genocide. On the
other hand, Churchill spoke boldly over the radio to the people of England,
uniting them to resist Hitler and work together for the good of their
neighbors. The tongue is a small, simple thing, but its inherent power is
capable of much. We must be wise in how we use it. Jacob Bier
How can we be wise in how we use our words? Jesus said, What you say
flows from what is in your heart (Luke 6:45). Without Jesus, all of our
hearts are corrupt, but if we’ve put our trust in Jesus, believing He died
and rose again, His Holy Spirit begins to transform our hearts to be more
and more like His. As we rely on His love for us, we can use our tongues
for good (John 15:1-17; 1 John 4:14-16).
Throughout the Bible, God commands His people to pursue justice for the
oppressed and to love our neighbors. What are some practical ways we can do
this through our speech?
The tongue can bring death or life. Proverbs 18:21a (NLT)