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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. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James isn't just talking about an individual person's speech affecting that same individual person. He actually begins the chapter by warning people that 'not many of us should become teachers'. Why? It's because he realizes the impact an influencing agent can have on the larger community. The tongue has great potential for bad but also for good. It's a warning but also a challenge. Those of us who are in leadership positions, especially those of us who speak often (verbally or otherwise), have great potential for good and bad influence. What are we going to do with the power and potential given to us?