In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand
speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire (v.5).
She said, ‘I hope you won’t be in my class next
year.’ ” One evening during dinner with my kids,
I was surprised when my 9-year-old randomly
shared an incident that had taken place at school. Being
a curious child, he had been playing with a door lock
while waiting in line for lunch when a teacher—in an
attempt to correct his behavior—made a comment that
had left an impression on him. Now 2 years later, it was
still on his mind.
While there are many characteristics that separate
us from the rest of creation, our ability to speak with
creative intent is one of the marked attributes we carry as
bearers of God’s image. Jesus told His disciples that they
would be known by their love for others (John 13:35)
and for being conduits of living water (John 7:38). James pulls
these two ideas together by revealing the incongruity of
professing our love for Christ and cursing the ones whom
He lovingly created (Psalms 139:13; James 3:9).
Like fire, words are powerful. Just as a flame brings
warmth or danger, the things we say can either reveal
the light of Christ in us or set in motion a path of
destruction around us (Proverbs 18:21). Our words
reveal the motives of our hearts; and when it comes to
communication, not only do we want to be heard, we
often strive for control. Even if we say little.
James, however, teaches that true power and influence
come through our submission to God (James 4:7). Self-centered speech (not
so much making ourselves the topic of conversation but using our words to
accomplish our agendas), produces things that are “earthly, unspiritual, and
demonic” (3:15). God-directed speech, though, is a valued treasure (Proverbs 25:11) that carries the restorative power of God’s grace (Colossians 4:6).
Read Proverbs 10:27 to see the connection between our trust in the
Lord, our obedience to His ways, and the fruit of our words.
How can fear play a role in the way we communicate with
others? How should our trust in God shape our interpretation of what
others say? How can God’s wisdom help you?