"For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things." (James 3:2-5)Many of us underestimate both the power of our words and our need to control and harness them for good and not for evil. Jesus warned us about the importance of our words. "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37) It can be a frightful thing to consider that we will be judged by every word that proceeds from our lips; that each word we have ever spoken in anger, presumption, foolishness, and discord will one day be require of us as we stand before the judge. Words matter; they matter to God, they matter to others, and they should matter to us as well.
One of the reason words are so powerful is because the proceed directly from our soul. Jesus said, "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil." (Matthew 12:34-35) When we speak, we speak out of what fills our heart. If our heart is full of anger, then we will speak anger. If our heart is full of grace, then we will speak grace. This is why James says that if we can control our tongue then we can control our whole life, because he who can control his tongue can control his soul, and he who can control his soul can control his whole life. If we can control anger, malice, and greed in our soul then not only will we not speak such things but neither will we do them as well. If a man's speech is bad then his heart is bad and his actions will be bad as well. However, if a person has learned to tame his soul so that his speech is good, then his actions will follow along in suit. A man who speaks well will also live well.
However, not only is the tongue like the pulpit of a ship, showing the direction the ship is heading, but it also like the rudder of the ship, helping to guide it along. Not only does our speech give an indication of what fills our heart, but it also helps to decide what continues to fill our heart. King Solomon once said, "With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:20-21) Our speech has the ability to steer our lives and to determine what becomes a part of our lives. A man who speaks anger will become more angry and will steer his life away from the pathway of peace. However, a man who speaks graciously will tame his angry heart and steer his life to safe harbors. A man who speaks violence will become violent will lead a life of violence. However, a man who speaks conciliation will find his heart conciliated towards others and will grow in relationship with God and man.
It may seem like a small matter, but a change in the way we speak can drastically change the outcome of our life. If we speak love, hope, grace, thankfulness, and faith then we shall find ourselves inheriting these things in our lives. However, if we speak anger, hatred, avarice, pride, and discontent then our lives will become filled by these things and we will find ourselves eating the unwanted fruit of our lips. A small change with our tongue can produce a large change in our lives. Maybe it's time to give greater thought and consideration to what and how we speak.