As children, we were told that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words may never hurt us. And while that sounds nice, we found that saying is just was not true as we got older. This is because words are incredibly powerful. Because words are powerful, James gives us three lessons about the usage of our words in James 3:1-12.
The first lesson James would teach us is that words are hard. He says in James 3:2 that “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.” We all sin with our speech, and it is only by admitting so that we can begin to tame our speech.
The second lesson James would teach is that our words are powerful. He likens the tongue to a flame (v.6) because a small spark can start a large forest fire. Our words have the potential for great harm because of their power; we need to be diligent guardians of what comes from them.
The third and final lesson James teaches us about our speech is that Christians have a higher standard. James says we both bless and curse with our tongues, and it should not be that way (vv.9-10). As Christians, our speech ought to be edifying and refreshing to people (Col. 4:6).