In James 3, the tongue is called out as a potent, powerful tool that is often misused. It is likened to a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder but is most vividly described as a small fire that sets a forest aflame, a metaphor for our life that our words can destroy. James 3:17-18 describes how we should behave, including how we speak, if we are wise: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Our words must be produced through these intentions and qualities. Otherwise, neither our righteousness nor the righteousness of the recipients will be produced by them.
James 1:9-10 describes how our physical blessings can become a hurdle between us and wisdom. When we are physically rich, our mindset and character are often negatively changed. The book of Proverbs identifies a similar relationship between how we speak and the riches we have in Proverbs 18:23, which says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Do not let your physical blessings turn you into a jealous, selfish miser! Remember that your riches are passing away along with this life, and use them to prepare for eternity, like the steward of Luke 16:1-13.
Proverbs 18:21 correctly states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Whether death or life is the fruit of your words depends on the words themselves and how and why they are spoken. Remember Ephesians 4:29-32 and speak so that you will serve the present need and so that your mouth becomes an extension of the grace of God for all.