James Chapter 3 contains many important points about controlling one's tongue.
In verse 1, James tells us that teachers will be held to a stricter judgment. This is because the words they speak can have a tremendous impact on the lives of those they are instructing. For this reason no one should seek to become a teacher unless they are being called by God. The responsibilities that teachers bear are too great to do otherwise.
In verse 2, James reminds us that "we all stumble in many ways". To not stumble in our speech shows spiritual maturity because the one who can control his tongue can exercise discipline over the rest of his body.
Verses 3 through 5 illustrates the power of the tongue. The tongue is a very small organ which can produce great effect, either for good, if it is controlled or for evil, if it is not controlled. Our speech not only influences our lives, but the lives of those around us. With very few words we can either destroy or build relationships and harm or help others, and the effects of those words can last a lifetime. The damage caused by an uncontrolled tongue is difficult to repair because the wounds cut deep within a person's soul and are hard to forget. An out of control tongue is a destructive force, and the one who possesses such a tongue is doing the work of Satan.
A vow of silence is not the solution because that does not fulfill God's purpose of giving us the ability to speak. He expects us to use our speech to be help others. To hold our tongue because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing is just as much a sin as it is to use our tongue for slander and gossip. The answer instead is to allow the Holy Spirit to control your tongue. If God can control your speech, He can control the rest of your behavior just like the one who controls the bit in the horse's mouth can control the whole animal.
Verses 7 and 8 state that "no man can control the tongue". What is needed to control one's tongue is the Holy Spirit's help, wisdom from God and a daily dependence on Him.
Verses 9 through 12 show the contradictory nature of the tongue. With our mouth we bless our Heavenly Father and curse our fellow man who is made in God's image. Blessings and curses that come out of the same mouth reveal inconsistencies in person's spiritual life. A consistent walk with Jesus will result in speech that consistently builds up others and is helpful. What is in your heart will always be revealed in your speech (Matthew 12:34). Thus, your speech is a good indication of your character.
A person's wisdom will be evident by their humility and good conduct (verse 13). Like faith, godly wisdom will result in good works, including good speech. A wise person also does not perform deeds in order to garner attention for himself; anyone seeking to promote himself and his status is not acting wisely.
Verses 14 through 16 identify characteristics of earthly wisdom which include envy and selfish ambition. Envy and selfish ambition also leading to sins committed with the tongue, such as bragging and lying. Such earthly wisdom will open the door to disorder and every kind of evil. "Earthly wisdom evaluates everything by worldly standards and makes personal gain life's highest goal."(Burdick) A Christian who is guided by earthly wisdom will lead a life that is filled with contradictions and confusion.
Verses 17 and 18 describes godly wisdom which is pure, peace loving, gentle, compliant, merciful, full of good fruit, impartial and without hypocrisy. True wisdom is willing to listen and to learn. We can know God's peace by exercising godly wisdom.
"Express yourself powerfully and effectively: say what you mean, mean what you say, without being mean when you say it." Meryl Runion