James 3:1-12—The Christian faith is expressed in a tamed tongue. Because a teacher has great influence, he will be held more accountable. See Matthew 23:1-33. Since the tongue is so difficult to control, anyone who controls it perfectly gains control of himself in all other areas of life as well. This is a lesson each must bear in mind. Gossip, slander, and malice are all deadly.
According to James, we speak with a fundamental contradiction. With the same mouth, we praise and curse God. With the same tongue, we decry and up-build our neighbor. With the same words, we can help others or crush their hopes. Thus it should be little surprise that we embrace political discourses that use words as cruel, blunt weapons.
Dishonesty has a corrosive effect on both its speaker and hearer. Such words weigh us all down. Unfortunately, partisanship too easily justifies a loose relationship with reality. No one but the most partisan among us imagines that “our” side of the debate is the only one that is honest and the other side always lies. Mendacity is not a partisan attribute. That the other side has lied does not justify the mendacity of those we tend to support.
Accusing the other side of deception furthermore hides a critical insight of James. The destructive power of words is insidious and infective. The more we are inundated with it, the easier it is to slide into the corrosive but easy discourses that sever relationships.
In the end, James suggests that there is never a relationship between humans and God which is not at the very same time manifest and embodied in our relationships with our sisters and brothers. In James, sin, suffering and illness are communal hardships just as much as they are individual ills. Their alleviation is affected through communal liturgies as much as personal confession. None of us — no matter our importance in the world — are independent, unfazed atoms. Instead, we are links in an unbreakable chain. For James, there is no knowledge of God that does not force an individual to gaze into the eyes of another person and realize her inextricability from the links of Christian community.
In short, we are always and inevitably bound to our neighbors.
 Luther’s Seal, copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
 Lutheran Service Book, © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis