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James 3:5

5 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.

Read James 3:5 Using Other Translations

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

What does James 3:5 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member
Like the bit in the horse's mouth, or like the helm of a ship.

And boasteth great things:
and does them; for this word may be taken in a good sense: a bridled and sanctified tongue, that is influenced by the grace of God, and directed by the Spirit of God, as it speaks great and good things, it has great power, weight, and influence: the tongue of the just is as choice silver, and the lips of the righteous feed many, ( Proverbs 10:20 Proverbs 10:21 ) , the Gospel, as preached by Christ's faithful ministers, who are the church's tongue, when it comes not in word only, but in power, is the power of God unto salvation: faith comes by hearing it, and hearing by this word; by it souls are convinced, converted, and comforted, enlightened, quickened, and sanctified.

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth;
what vast quantities of wood, large forests, stately buildings, and populous towns and cities, are at once seized on by a little fire, a few sparks, and in a short time burnt down, and utterly destroyed. One of the proverbs of Ben Syra is,

``burning fire kindles great heaps;''

suggesting, that an evil tongue does great mischief, as did the tongue of Doeg the Edomite, as the gloss upon it observes: from hence the apostle passes to consider the abuse or vices of the tongue.

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