Continuing with the description of heavenly wisdom, James 3:17-18 teaches us that it is “first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times…” That last phrase makes it perfectly clear to me how much I lack wisdom. I can 18 the sentrybe gentle, but I’m surely not gentle “at all times.” Is it even possible? Looking at different translations for this phrase we find the New International Version says we are to be “considerate.” The Living Bible says we are to be “courteous.” The Jerusalem Bible says it’s “kindly.” Archbishop Trench, one of the great linguists, said that there was no word in English or Latin to adequately translate this word. But one aspect of all these words or phrases that stand out to me is that this aspect of heavenly wisdom deals the way we speak to one another. Many of the problems in families are the direct result of using the wrong words and using them in a harsh manner.

Earlier in the same chapter, James uses three illustrations to talk about the power of our speech. He says our tongue is a small thing but the use of it brings about serious results. The first two illustrations that James uses deals with the power of the tongue to accomplish good. It’s like the bit in a horse’s mouth. Just a little thing, appropriately placed in the horse’s mouth could be used to harness the power of the entire animal. Next, he introduces the idea of a ship’s rudder. Just a little pressure on this smallest of instruments attached to the stern of the ship can change the direction of the entire ship. The third illustration, however, is one that points out the deadly potential of the tongue. The smallest spark or flame can start a fire that destroys an entire forest. Proverbs 16:27 says, “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.”

Fred Smith says, “In Scripture the tongue is referred to as fire, one of the greatest discoveries of mankind. By it we do many things. Yet unmanaged it becomes one of the most destructive. The management of the tongue starts with the management of the heart, for out of the heart the tongue speaks. For the tongue to have freedom, the soul must have purity. It must be purged of pride, greed, hostility, or the poison of the heart will come out of the mouth.” Psalm 141, verse 3, gives us an appropriate prayer with regard to this kind of wisdom. The Psalmist prays, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”