There’s a preacher story about a man who went to dinner with a friend of his. He asked his friend to take him to a restaurant with the best possible meat selection. The friend took him to a restaurant that specialized in serving tongue. They served grilled tongue, fried tongue, baked tongue, tongue in salads, and any other kind of tongue that you could think of! When he asked his friend why he brought him to a restaurant that served tongue as his choice for the best meat, his friend replied, “What other meat do you know that can bless you, encourage you, strengthen you, and affirm you?”
This same man went to dinner with this same friend and asked to be taken to a restaurant with the worst meat he could find in hopes of getting a different kind of restaurant. Again, they arrived at a place that served tongue. With a knowing look, his friend said, “Hey! What other meat do you know that can curse you, destroy you, or remove dignity from you?”
That silly story illustrates the point that James makes in chapter 3 of his letter: Our words are extremely powerful, and we should be tremendously careful when choosing them. He writes:
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:2-12 NIV)
Your words are the most influential thing that you will ever have. Use them to bless, encourage, strengthen, and affirm others. Never to curse, destroy, or belittle them.