For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.
Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
Imagine a world where people actually think about what they say before they say it. If everyone would take the time before they spoke there would never be anything said out of anger, jealousy, spite, or any emotion.
In this chapter James is trying to relate to us how dangerous the tongue can be, how detrimental it can be to you and to those around you. We have all said things that we have regretted, in fact we have all said something that we still regret to this day.
By simply learning to control what we say instead of being overcome by emotion and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind we can save ourselves and others a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.
The very nature of man is sin, sin dwells at our very souls. It is the inheritance passed down to us from Adam and Eve. Paul says in Romans:
For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Paul is explaining that our human nature is sin. When we are born again into a relationship with Jesus Christ we must condition ourselves to overcome our sinful nature. Part of this is controlling the members of our body, the most disobedient of which is the tongue. James goes on to say in chapter 3 that 'no man can tame the tongue,' and he is absolutely correct. Taming the tongue would be taming our sinful nature and this is something we cannot do. Like the old saying, "A leopard cant change its spots." Neither can we change our human nature, but we can control it. By doing something as simple as thinking before we speak we take away the power of sin over our tongue.
I want you to really think about how powerful a tool the tongue is for sin. Think about the things that you say today. Every time you gossip about someone, curse or talk about something that you have no right talking about I want you to be aware of it. Think of the old clichÃ©, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." If you spend today concentrating on how many times you say something you shouldn't have said you will be amazed. Probably half the conversations you have in a day could be eliminated and some days you might find that if you hadn't said something you shouldn't have said you probably wouldn't have talked all day.
Be careful of what you say, and be mindful of how it affects others.