One of the reasons many, particularly in the Protestant tradition, have become ambivalent about the Epistle of James is a misunderstanding of the type of literature it is. Whereas Paul, being himself a Pharisee trained under the respected teacher Gamaliel, wrote from the perspective of Christ being the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. James wrote from a different, but equally important, perspective.
James was steeped in this tradition. Consequently, his epistle is a collection of wise sayings and godly counsel. Perhaps the most practical of all his wisdom is his advice concerning the tongue. “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire,” he writes, echoing Solomon. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (James 3:5-6). James sees the tongue as the epicenter of human evil, untamable by any human being. It exposes the double-mindedness of man, his utter inability to live consistently in obedience to God. For while we may, at one moment, use the tongue to “bless our Lord and Father,” we may, at the next moment, use it to “curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9).