Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Lately, I've been reading Dead Wake, Erik Larson's account of the last voyage of the Lusitania. Fascinating book, and it's amazing to think about the rudders on these big ships. The Lusitania's rudder was 56 tons, which sounds big until you consider the overall displacement of the ship was nearly 45,000 tons! (Thanks Wikipedia) That's about one-tenth of one percent of the ship controlling where the ship goes.
Similarly, think of your car. The average curb weight for a Honda Accord is around 3,200 pounds. How do you control it? You use a steering wheel that weighs hardly anything, and we take it for granted.
So James is wise to say our tongues deserve our attention -- though they are a small part of our body, they have great control over how people perceive us, over how we act in the world. If we speak rudely or impetuously, we will be perceived poorly, and our actions may not be able to overcome that. If we are prone to losing our tempers or disregarding those struggling with difficulties in life, our words will paint a picture of what kind of person we are.
It's amazing to read the words of Jesus. Even when gripped by passion and opposed by the Pharisees, he could still speak kindly, respectfully, with words of love that encouraged the listener to pursue God. He spoke from a place of love, not malice, even toward his enemies.
May we have the courage to speak wisely, recognizing the influence our words have on our lives and those around us. May we speak words of love and tell of the wonders of Christ.