A Fiery Tongue

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

It’s a phrase as kids we would say to others when they said something mean. As if the things they said, didn’t really hurt. We would give off this sense of strength.

But often times, it was just a mask. The words hurt. We might not have shown it on the outside. But they hurt, and sometimes deep.

James describes the tongue as a fire, something of great potential disaster.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

James 3:5b-6

The idea of fire, something that can be so destructive, is made synonymous with the very muscle we use to communicate.

But words will never hurt me.

James seems to be telling us something different. The words you and I speak are important. Without restraint, without careful control, our words can be destructive.

James makes a point to bring our attention to the smallness of the tongue in contrast to the immensity it can unleash in damage.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

James 3:3-5a

A small package that packs a big punch.

Our words have significance. They bring life, or they bring death to the one receiving them.

If we are called to love, to be a reflection of Jesus Christ, we cannot leave our tongue unbridled.

Put out the fire, and speak with purpose.

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