v.3 – So I have 2 thoughts here. One is we can control a big animal such as a horse, but we can’t control our own tongue, which are not only part of our own bodies, but such small things on top of that. Two, how do we control that horse? By gaining control over its mouth. Once we have control over its mouth, we have almost total control. Likewise, if we can learn to control our own mouth, we will have better control over our total self.
v.4 – Just as a small rudder has the power to control a large ship, our words have the power to control not only our thoughts and moods, but those of others as well. The words we speak, and the words we hear, have the power to alter our thought process which in turn alters our emotions, our mood, our actions – good and bad. Kind words can lift our spirit, while cruel words can crush it.
v.5-6 – I also see this two ways. In v. 6, it goes on to say that the tongues is a flame of fire, a world of wickedness that can consume. The wickedness of our hurtful, angry, or even thoughtless words can destroy. But look at the end of v. 5. It says, “A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” I know James was talking about the destructive properties of fire. However, putting a positive twist on it – a great speaker can stir up others to do good. An encouraging word can set a soul on fire for Christ. The difference is a destructive burn vs. a control burn. A wild forest fire consumes everything in its path. A controlled burn does away with the weeds and snares and leaves fertile ground ready for new growth. One fire burns with no thought for what or who it hurts, while the other gently takes away what is undesirable and leaves an environment that will encourage a better harvest.